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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 39

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.

Right then. Hello, I am drunk. Wife and child in South Africa, I am set to join them in a couple of weeks. But for now I have been drinking, watching Wrong Eyed Jesus with friends and now have a column to write. Thankfully some of this was written earlier in the week, but not all of it. Off we go.

NO, NOT THAT TOMMY LEE

[Green Light]

One exclusive that didn’t get announced this weekend – I heard Tommy Lee Edwards had gone over to Marvel.

He’s got a three year exclusive deal. Which means initially he’ll be working on a stash of covers and JM Straczynski’s previously mentioned, but yet to be scheduled series “Bullet Points”. Set firmly, if bizarrely, in the Marvel Universe. Probably the most “mainstream” comic Edwards has ever done. After the pencils are lettered, Edwards will ink and colour the work himself.

I think any fan of the medium will want a look see at that. Bring me more wine.

VAUGHAN WILDUpdated 2/16/06

[Green Light]

Brian K Vaughan is one of the authors that Scott Dunbier didn’t announce would be writing one of the Wildstorm relaunch books. We’ll have to wait to find out which one…

I hope it’s “Tao.” I liked “Tao.” “Tao” was good. More “Tao.” “Tao!” Even shouting it sounds good. Everybody shout “Tao!”

I miss the Numbskulls.

UPDATE: Brian Vaughan writes: “I’d suspect the reason Scott didn’t announce me writing one of the relaunch books is because I’m not (unless they’re relaunching Ex Machina?).”

Ah well, there you go. Another one bites the Durst…

So. A quick run round the usual suspects gets me that it’s not a relaunch. But some brand new fantasy book. Maybe. Look if I keep at this, I’m bound to get it right eventually.

STANDING ROOM ONLY

[Green Light]

“Last Planet Standing” is a follow up to last year’s surprise hit series from Marvel, “Last Hero Standing.” Again, set in the Marvel-futuristic MC2 universe, Galactus comes a calling, and eats almost everything. Greedy bugger. Look for it in a Previews sometime soonish.

Here’s a cover. Almost willingly supplied by a Marvel source when confronted with the above. That’s a first. Could this be a golden age in rumour monger publisher relations?

No, probably not. I need a lie down.

BATMAN OF SOMETHING. I DON’T KNOW. LEAVE ME ALONE

[Yellow Light]

I’d been getting shit from some quarters over my “Grant Morrison and Kubert on ‘Detective Comics'” rumour first reported here back in June, for a while. Turns out I was right. Just about. Ish. Always a nice surprise.

And “Kid Seven” from the Kubert school tells me that Andy Kubert has been showing his Batman pages around, while Adam has been showing round Superman…

And yes, yes, Mark Waid on “Flash” was wrong. But at least we know he was considering it for a while…

I think next week I should do a Right/Wrong LITG lookback over Crisis/OYL/52. Depends how much wine I have while writing it.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ANDY HELFER?

[Green Light]

Okay, he’s probably never forgiven me for spreading a certain story – albeit one that he seemed happy to spread himself.

One of an earlier spate of casualties at DC, I haven’t heard his name mentioned in comics of late.

Publishers Weekly report that Hill & Wang, are publishing non-fiction comics, including biographies of Reagan and Malcolm X by Helfer, drawn by Steve Buccellato and Randy DuBurke. And intriguingly they’re publishing a comics version of “The 9/11 Report” from ex-Marvel editor Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon. Helfer will also edit biographies of Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover and Isadora Duncan. Sadly it appears that a certain Mr Yankovich has been snubbed again.

GREEN LIGHT

[Green Light]

One of the writers of the Constantine screenplay has mentioned that he is working on a film version of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing stories, under the working title of “The Green.”

No Constantine though, dude.

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY

[Yellow Light]

There’s nothing like three bottles of Pinot Noir to give you the impetus to write about the current industry.

The Cold War. Two massive alliances, in direct opposition, changing the face of the globe. Each action is met with a reaction, spiralling out of control with a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction that might bring the whole world to ruin.

Yes, DC and Marvel’s publishing policies have been getting a little out of hand of late. Certainly when the other publishers aren’t kicking it out, Valiant style.

Over the past decade, in dribs and drabs, the comics industry was starting to address the more mainstream audience it used to. DC led this off really, with Vertigo moving away from magical fantasy while retaining the more popular of those titles. “Sandman,” “Preacher,” “Transmetropolitan,” “Y The Last Man” and “100 Bullets,” all reaching out finding new, small audiences, growing them like Johnny Appleseed, until you had the ridiculous situation of a Sandman Original Graphic Novel selling over 100,000 in its first week and smashing through the New York Bestseller List. Even works like “Identity Crisis” took their superhero icons, made serious changes, put what “The Authority” satirised in the spotlight, and found a way to reach out to a media that embraced it. Even more than did Flying Friar.

Sorry. Should have been the Atom that did it anyhow.

And Marvel, after a few stunts that got them noticed, but cost them respect, found a new cluster of writers whose work reached out beyond the insular comics crowd, growing slowly, but surely. Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, JMS, Joss Whedon…

And both comics sales and bookstore sales have been growing. With a new form of storytelling engineered to growing a marketplace.

In doing so, of course, much of the “hardcore” comics community, those that provide a certain sales base for these projects, have felt attacked. No longer catered for, no longer loved. And their weapons have been drawn, “decompression” being referred to not as a storytelling skill, but as an accusation of laziness. Works that bypassed continuity, or just had new takes on existing concepts seen as disrespectful. And as new authors are recruited, often from other disciplines, this is seen as abandoning stalwarts of the past and forgetting the current fans. As opposed to recruiting talent that could earn more money elsewhere – and so were only doing it for the love.

“Infinity Crisis” and “Avengers Disassembled” changed that and has provided in spades what is known as “fan service.” The huge sales lift both titles saw has changed the marketplace over a very short period of time. Marvel put Wolverine and Spider-Man and pretty much anyone with a film option on “Avengers” and sales went well over 200,000. Plots spilled out of books in ways that never happened before. Even in the biggest crossover days of the nineties, a crossover happened, that was that, the toys went back in the box. But now, organised plans covering an entire line of superhero titles has brought the zombie back from the dead, the fan who has to buy everything in order to get the whole story. And it’s not stopping. “Annhilation,” “Planet Hulk” and “Civil War” from Marvel will all tie into each other. And DC has done this to the nth degree with a plethora of “Infinity Crisis,” “One Year Later,” “Beyond Crisis,” “52” and more to come.

And so the books become more impenetrable and inaccessible. DC’s internal stated policy is to target these fanboys, basically, take them for everything they can. Provide bang for their buck, sure, but they’re leaving out a crate of expensive fireworks. They’ve found their audience in the single male with plenty of disposable income (think the pink pound, but no outlay on clothes, aftershave or moisturiser) and are filling their boots while they can. And what’s more, these guys then post on the messageboards about it. All night long.

This may not be a sustainable model, but for now it’s providing a huge revenue source that may well see DC outstrip Marvel for sales, units and dollar amounts in upcoming months.

And any other publisher might as well lie down and die. As the Big Two titles increase, many publishers have been seeing sales on many titles drop off, in an unexpected way. As the sales base is pushed more and more to Marvel and DC, there’s less room for anyone else to get a toe hold. Expect a few more dead publishers this year.

I understand that “Infinite Crisis #6” is to be delayed anything up to a month. There is industry speculation that this is to accommodate a reworking to suit that same audience. An initial ending would have seen a single Earth established, reflecting the original Crisis, but it looks like a new multiple Earth system is being devised instead.

And now there’s Marvel’s “Civil War.” Can this reach DC’s heights? “House Of M,” “Planet Hulk,” “Decimation” and the like have been sellouts… will Marvel go for any money left on the table that DC haven’t grabbed yet? Oh, quite possibly. It’s going to be a bloodbath.

But I hear from some people in the Marvel camp that they’re running a bait and switch. Look like they’re doing an “Infinite Crisis” style project for all their characters… to get all the hardcore fanboys on side… and then do something very different indeed. They may not like it, but they’ll have bought it. Hell, they’ll probably like it. And it will be part of a new comics reader outreach attempt.

Be interesting to see if they can succeed. As the posters say, “Which Side Are You On?”

Okay. I’m out of wine. This is not good.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT?

[Green Light]

Derek Robinson interviewed comics artist John Calimee over his “Alpha Flight” work a few years ago. A title Byrne originated, and both wrote and drew. But, even if Calimee can’t touch Byrne’s artistic heights on the title, how about his intriguing perspectives? Off the art board I mean….

You’ll have your own favourites from this remarkably self-depracatory interview, but I think my favourite has to be this.

“As I sat in the theatre watching the movie ‘Serenity,’ I wanted Josh Whedon to lose his licence to write when he had the ‘hero’ kick a man off the rail of his craft and then shot the guy dead. With ‘friends’ like this, thank god for enemies.

“It plays well to the popular crowd, but it’s hardly inspiring. There’s nothing appealing there. Do you know if Josh Whedon had served in War? Watched the friend next to him get his brains blown away? If he’s seen the life of a man slip away due to his own hands? If he had, I doubt he wouldn’t write his heroes this way”

That’s right, folks, Joss Whedon is a terrible writer because he Did Not Go To War. They should have used that on propoganda posters…

Still Joss, if things start heating up in Iran, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to hone your writing skills.

Mind you, Calimee may have also missed that the cast of Serenity are meant to be bad guys…

Where is the wine?

SWIPE FILM

[Yellow Light]

Art

Film

If only Hugh Jackman were shorter…

Mind you how about Vinnie Jones…

And all those He-Man figures my friend Martin Oxford used to have? I haven’t seen Martin for twenty-five years. He could be in prison for all I know.

CHRIS CROSS CROSS

[Yellow Light]

John Byrne has come face to face with a story that artist Chris Cross told of his youth. As part of an article by Ronee Garcia Bourgeois that was incredibly insulting of John Byrne, she contacted Chris Cross who contributed quite the diatribe.

A couple of Byrne boarders took this account to the man himself under the title “JB, How Do You Deal With These Sorts Of Morons.” Byrne’s initial response was ignorance of the creator, followed by a denial that any such incident ever did or could have taken place.

He continued, “Preposterous. I have a standard answer when artists say I was their reason for getting into the Biz, or fans say I was why they started reading: ‘All my fault, huh?’ I’ll bet there are people who post here who got that response at one time or another.

“This guy is clearly making this up, in a sad, sad, sad attempt to build himself some creds from his own personal ‘Bad Byrne’ story.”

John Byrne once described me as someone “who homes on negativity the way a fly homes on shit.” Well, I clearly have a reputation to maintain. I passed this rebuttal to Chris who rebutted it – and more.

“I will not be lumped into the High School shenanigans of nonsense like the many artists or writers that had any link to any John Byrne debacle. It’s enough that some people, as stupid as it sounds, think I’m using John’s unprofessionalism that was directed towards me in my freshman years as a professional in the comics industry to elevate my status in the medium. Puke.

“But he said some things and did some things that came to revisit him and now his cronies on his forum spend a great deal of time making excuses as to why this man, who should know better, continues to say things without thinking of the ramifications of his spoken words. Like i have nothing else better to do than to make junk up… I had a woman friend of mine who worked with Milestone with me at the time and she asked me if I heard what she heard when John said those words to me. And he thought he was making a funny joke. I had forgotten all about it, and then a friend of mine sends me a link to that blackface drawing he did in a UPC box on one of the X-men covers he did, and it brought it all back. Not in anger, mind you. He doesn’t affect me that way. Just the audacity.

“Look, comics are just that… comics. But I’m talking about life here. Some artists forget that people who come to greet them are actual people and not spineless nerds who sit in an apartment all day watching porno and anime with their hand in their pants Al Bundy-style wasting their adulthood away. And I’ve seen for myself and heard horrible stories from people themselves who’ve had bad run-ins with Byrne. Some said they were hurt by it, some had my reaction… smack him in the head.

“Because there are writers and artists in this industry that forget that fans pay their mortgages and their Benz-Os. They come far and wide to see the person that takes them away from reality for even a half an hour. They drool over their work and spend their hard-earned money and then they meet the object of their inspiration and find a dud…. Coming to the conclusion that I did; just because someone’s a great artist or writer doesn’t make them great men or women of character. And in the end, fans want to meet someone that doesn’t talk down to them or shepherds them off as non-existent mannequins.

“This whole thing is coming from a column that was done months ago in Buzzscope.com where it was more of a recounting of a pattern of how artists like Byrne continuously say things that offend the populace and think that just because they’re legends in the industry, that that gives them no reason to apologize for saying the wrong thing, or think they have certain wisdom to discuss topics that are beyond them. Like race, and culture.

“I have a problem with people that will follow a person regardless of his/her tenets. People should be smart enough to make judgements based upon the character of the person they pay homage to. I acknowledge Elvis and John Wayne as legends in their fields, but they were known racists. And I don’t watch or purchase their movies nor do I listen to Elvis songs. Am I saying that Byrne is racist? No, but based on his past comments, I’d swear the man’s prejudiced.

“It’s good to have digital courage in front of the keyboard, but I live in Jersey City which is predominantly Latino and African American with a Middle Easterner populace on the rise. I double challenge Byrne to come to JC and say half of the things he says in type. See what kind of consequence that promotes. Heck, I’ll even take pictures.

“Now it doesn’t surprise me that JB doesn’t remember, or at least doesn’t want to. Most people who talk a lot of nonsense, have selective Alzheimer’s about what they acknowledge they do.

“Now, it’s important that you understand that it’s not his body of work that’s in question, just his character. Although I believe a person’s work is an extension of their character.

“What’s disconcerting is that he’s unapologetic and there are his loyal fans that blindly follow without even questioning his integrity. That is until he turns on them.

“Sad.”

For last year’s Brighton convention, I ran a “Have I Got Feuds For You” panel, to which John Byrne came across as a sort of Roman figure. Add one more piece of string, I guess.

And my favourite quote from the Byrne Forum thread? “My opinions are, as I insist others should be, informed. About that which I know nothing, I say nothing.”

COMICWATCH

[Green Light]

Eightball being read in close up, and Jim Woodring’s Frank posters in the latest episode of Channel 4’s “The IT Crowd.”

THREE FILMS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

[Green Light]

A Valentine’s Day Sequel to occasional comic book writer Brendon Connelly’s Christmas film, “John Vs Laura.” Send the following link to your loved one tomorrow. Then see if you’re still a couple.

Aphrodisiac Casserole

Nick Locking and John Mazzeo are fellows well known to the UK fan community. Principle figures behind the V, Nick Locking wrote an unpublished Robocop series for Avatar and John Mazzeo loved “The Monarchy” too much. Known for their bitter, intelligent, sarcastic critiques of all and sundry, they would never leave themselves open to extreme ridicule… would they?

Of Course Not. Apparently, it is rather tricky to rock a rhyme that’s right on time. Note the geek headquarters they inhabit.

And something a friend and I knocked up. The Basic Instinct II footage recut, speeded up and, well, a new sound track laid down.

Benny Instinct. Already taken down one server, get this while you can.

SMALL PRINT

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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