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.


[Green Light]Of late DC has been more concerned with how it looks. The DC "spin" logo was an early sign, but the "All Star" logos are another example that they're trying to look their best with spiffy new logos and the like.

And here are some more, in their pure form. Which means you're welcome to churn them up. Anyone fancy doing a 52 Varieties for a can of Heinz Baked Beans? Maybe with a best before date of One Year Later? Your call…

"One Year Later"


"Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis"

"Batman: Cyber Revolution"


Ain't that snazzy!


[Yellow Light]In Joe Quesada's regular Newsarama Joe Fridays, the question of Marvel's Western line as raised - and the absence of Rawhide Kid. And it was one sentence that caused my inbox to fill.

"Well, understand that if we were to go with the gay Kid we would have had to label the books MAX and that's not what we wanted for this event."

With that, many inferred that Joe was saying that Marvel could not publish a series starring a gay character without it being labelled a MAX - the same label used for comics featuring extreme swearing, extreme violence and explicit nudity.

Something that's now been confirmed to me.

Joe Quesada explained to me that this was the act of a responsible publisher in the current marketplace, given a reactionary media, and widespread and increasingly vocal parental concerns.

More than a judgment on Marvel, this is a reflection of changing American reaction. With high profile examples such as Janet Jackson and Howard Stern, there's far more potential hysterical reaction that could harm Marvel as a brand than at the peak of Bill Jemas' excesses.

Action groups are much more likely to target companies through their directors, shareholders and advertisers. And Marvel has a very public brand right now. Marvel believes that the single act of publishing a comic starring a gay character without a MAX label, no matter what they do or don't get up to, could cause a backlash Marvel can ill afford.

Marvel do have other labels for content, T+ and Parental Advisory which some may consider more suitable, if there is concern. MAX is defined as:

"MAX: EXPLICIT CONTENT - 18+ years old Most Mature Readers books will fall under the MAX Comics banner, (created specifically for mature content titles) MAX and Mature-themed titles will continue to be designed to appear distinct from mainline Marvel titles, with the "MAX: Explicit Content" label very prominently displayed on the cover. MAX titles will NOT be sold on the newsstand, and they will NOT be marketed to younger readers."

Which may seem a little rough for a cowboy who likes his braves. "Brokeback Mountain," featuring nudity and depictions of gay sex got an R rather than an NC17. But it's only the MAX brand which takes Marvel off the front of the comic. Marvel believe that they would be treated differently as a comic book publisher, and with a brand closer in tone to Disney's.

When the "Rawhide Kid" series was first promoted, the MAX label seemed to cover what was going to be an explicit series. In the end, the comic was far tamer than most standard Marvel comics. Non-MAX Marvel titles continue to feature far more explicit heterosexual references than Rawhide Kid ever did, even with its Carry On Cowboy, Whoops Where's My Stetson innuendo dialogue and covers. And there was still a negative media reaction, one that saw Stan Lee blasted on national television. In today's climate, Marvel believe it could be far worse.

Of course, Marvel have published a solo series starring a gay character since "Rawhide Kid," namely "Northstar," without warnings. But that was a long time ago - no publicity was courted and none was granted. Clearly things have changed. There will continue to be gay characters in Marvel Universe titles, prominent ones even, such as in "Young Avengers" and "Ultimate X-Men," but don't look for them to take the centre solo stage any time soon.

It is the opinion of this column that, if a Marvel title can feature Peter Parker kissing Mary Jane without need for guidance, then it can feature Harry Osborne kissing Flash Thompson in the same light. And even if there are concerns beyond my own perspective, a MAX label which has been interpreted as covering nudity, extreme violence, and extreme language, is still overkill for a peck on the cheek. Whichever cheek. Marvel has often led the way with progressive social attitudes, indeed "X-Men" became a cheerleader for such.

And right now, DC have plans to publish a Batwoman series, with a lesbian character in the lead. Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns" is expected to have a gay subtext about "secret identities" that will be exploded in the publicity. And Joss Whedon is tackling Wonder Woman the movie - a comic that even in its most innocent days never shied too far from its lesbian and bondage themes.

Despite all their progressive changes within the company over the last few years, this move makes Marvel look more like it's taken a few steps back.


[Green Light]DC/Wildstorm have picked up licenses for a new comics line from New Line studios, also owned by Warner Bros.

Named titles include "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Austin Powers" and "The Tenacious D."

However, when contacted, William Christensen, Avatar publisher of the current "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" told me that he hadn't heard a thing.

Sorry William. You have now.


[Green Light]I'm getting reports of sell-outs in comic shops all over for "The Flying Friar". To the extent I've had a fair few begging letters for copies.

Shops who have told me they ordered heavy and still have plenty in stock include Gosh! Comics and Orbital Comics in London , Twilight Comics in Belleville, Illinois, Phoenix Comics in Fairfax, Vancouver, Bridge City Comics in Portland, Oregon, Comickaze in San Diego, California, Comics Unlimited in Westminster, California, Chapel Hill Comics in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Flying Colors in Concord, California, Earthworld Comics in Albany, New York, Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michegan and Clem's Collectibles in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Shops that are getting more copies in this week include Comic Relief, in Berkeley, California, Austin Books in Austin, Texas and Clem's Collectibles in Defiance, Ohio and Lansing, Missouri.

If your shop has sold out, give them this code - OCT05-3178 - and they should order you a copy.

To order print copies online, in the US may I recommend Silver Bullet Comics and in the UK, Comix-Shop.co.uk.

I'm also making "The Flying Friar" available for download for cover price at www.richjohnston.com. While it's obviously far nicer to have a print copy, that might not be practical for everyone. Especially the guy from Afghanistan who emailed me asking where he could get a copy.


[Green Light]A few advance pages from the new Spectre series.


[Green Light]Is this... a new Creeper series from DC?

Back to basics?


[Green Light]There are more Tate comic book-related goings on in London. LITG told you of the Alan Moore lecture at Tate Britain, which sold out hours of appearing in this column. Now there's The Art Of The Comic Strip with Olivia Plender.

It's a bit poncey, costs £40 and there's no Alan Moore, but hey. Good luck.


[Green Light]"ArthurBall" is an pop cultural event associated with "arthur" magazine, held in Los Angeles.

On Sunday, 26th February, Grant Morrison will perform a reading of his work, followed by a conversation with Erik Davis, who will then moderate a Q&A session.

Plus a load of other weirdos. Details here.

No word as to whether Robbie Williams will attend.


[Green Light]Todd McFarlane's "Man Of Miracles" toy. That's right, ignore the logo, that's "Man of Miracles". A leather jacket can hide many a sin.

You don't think that needle's in an unfortunate position to be crouching?


[Green Light]I hear work of a DC crossover with another company is in the works… the kind that would make Joe Quesada jealous… more info expected at the New York Convention.


[Green Light]Life


Thanks to Trevor Giberson and Brian Talley from the Byrne Forum for this one.


[Green Light]We've mentioned some of the many Pieta swipes in comics of late. But David Hine and Roy Martinez in "Son Of M" #2 go one further… by making a terrible pun out of it.

That's Pietro, folks.


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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