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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOL 2 COLUMN 31

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.

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

THE SIXTH ANNUAL RUMOUR AWARDS

The black helicopters filled the skies. As conspiracy bloggers around the world started linking to each other, speculating on the contents and mission of these mysterious tinted messengers, they darted over mysterious bases in Eastern Europe, ringing to the music of Celine Dion, over France where they dropped a few sick parrots over the side and then across the English Channel. Inside each craft was a crate containing a nefarious individual intended for rendering. But no member of Al Qaeda. Nor a high ranking Ba’athist official. No, these crates contained members of the comic book industry, preparing to be interrogated for the annual Rumour Awards.

Rich Johnston sat up front in the lead helicopter, signalling down as the helicopters circled the Thames. For while previous awards had been held in such exotic locales such as Reykjavik, Cape Town’s Robben Island the Seychelles, Iraq and Troy, this year, with Rich’s first child only nine months old, he wanted something a little closer to home. Richmond Park in London, just off the A3. Currently closed for the annual culling of deer, it seemed a perfect, beautiful and secluded place for the finest military helicopters that Rich could persuade George Bush to lend him (as long as no one saw that photo of him and Osama kissing under the mistletoe).

The helicopters landed, frightening the skylarks, and the crates were deposited on the soft dewy morning grass. As the copters took back to the sky, silhouetted against the clear crisp December skies, slowly the crates began to open.

This year’s judges, blearily rubbing their eyes and hugging themselves to keep the cold out, were Senior VP Sales And Marketing of DC Comics, Stephanie Fierman, PVP creator Scott Kurtz, Seven Soldiers and All Star Superman writer Grant Morrison, columnist and ex-Marvel staffer Paty Cockrum, Marvel’s Marketing Maven John Dokes, V For Vendetta creator David Lloyd, Alias Enterprises’ Mike Miller, Invincible and Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman

Their mission, to gather and decide which, of the many rumours and pieces of gossip circulate this year deserved to be honoured, highlighted or indeed, regurgitated in the dark, bleak period between Christmas and New Year. And to start, the oft-favourite…

VISUAL OF THE YEAR

Which image had made the biggest impact on the collective consciousness of comics? Paty wouldn’t accept that any visual could be a visual of the year if it didn’t have Magneto in it. Possibly seven feet tall, naked, and painted on her bedroom wall.

Nudity was a theme however. And some of the changed Frank Cho Shanna pictures that resulted from the Aradication of Marvel’s MAX line left a few pages out in the cold.

“Who is Shanna?” asked Stephanie.

“Every woman!” replied Scott Kurtz, pleased to see the classic breasts as weapons motif in this particular example.

John Dokes looked quite faint. “Are those… nipples?” he asked. “Lady dumplings?”

“You should see mine, though” he shouted. “Hey, maye I could play Shanna in a 1985-style fumetti version?” Hmm?” But everyone else just looked away. Rich went home to feed his daughter, leaving them to it.

Robert Kirkman picked up the next picture. “Grant… maybe you need a little more fibre in your diet? Like Eve?”

“Diet?” replied Grant. “I have a very balanced diet. Mushrooms. Special herbs. Small pills. Anyway, you can talk, you’ve got a grand piano for a head.”

As Grant tried to play Chopsticks on Robert Kirkman’s fat teeth, Mike Miller said that what he wanted to see were more traditional, family-suitable comics “without any of this grown up fanboy sniggering over nudity or bowel trouble. Like John Byrne’s Doom Patrol. I happen to have an example here.”

Grant Morrison said that Superman was where it was all at. “Superman original art is wonderful. I don’t just mean Frank Quitely’s, but even, say, Jackson Guice’s work from the splash page of Action Comics 0. It gives a real indication of where I see the DC Universe going.”

Vicki Vale’s appearance in All Star Batman caused some to condemn artist Jim Lee for this kind of shot

Until writer Frank Miller’s script was exposed only last week.

John Dokes put his hands over his eyes.

“Well, I can’t find anything wrong with that page” said Mike Miller. But Paty Cockrum was despairing at the lack of naked men. “Comics are full of naked women, and not one man whopping it out for the ladies.” Scott piped up “well, there’s Jack Lawrence and Theo Bain… they did some comics for Mike…”

“No they didn’t” said Mike.

“Yes, they did”, replied Scott. “Lions Tigers and Bears and Grimoles surely”.

“I’ve never heard of them, their books don’t exist, they’ve been swallowed by a temporal timewarp and I’ll be putting a press release to that effect out imminently.”

“Surely they created these kind of images?” asked Scott as Mike began shrieking.

John Dokes peeked through his fingers before quickly shutting them again.

Paty Cockrum stood bolt upright so she addressed everyone’s waistbands and said “You can’t see his helmet.” Everyone looked at her and pointed out that you clearly could.

“I mean his red helmet. With the purple trim. And his long flowing cape. That’s clearly not my Magneto.”

Stephanie took Paty away for a quiet talk. Good thing too as the next image might have been even closer to Paty’s fantasy, Mark Chamberlain’s legally-questioned Batman works…

There was a late entrant from the new issue of Wired, featuring Joe Quesada’s home in all it’s glory. Guitars in the cabinets, Spider-Man on the projection, and the desiccated corpse of Bill Jemas under the floorboards.

But John Dokes overruled it, and the rest of the judges decided that their favourite image from the entire year was an older one from an issue of Justice League that seemed eerily prophetic…

“It’s sentient, do you see” screeched Grant Morrison. “The DC Universe knows what it’s doing, it’s a sentient living thing”. “No it’s not” said Stephanie. “If it were, how could it have allowed Rob Liefeld to draw part of it?”

The judges moved on to the award given for the lost chance that slipped through someone’s fingers.

TURNING DOWN THE BEATLES AWARD

Robert Kirkman thought that it would be a little self-serving if the revelation that Speakeasy managed to snag the yet-unpublished “Flying Friar” project because Image Comics turned it down won the award.

Ignorance was expressed by Stephanie Fierman over the next nomination, that there was still being no home at DC for Grant Morrison’s comics project with Cameron Stewart, LeSexy. And because Morrison is exclusive at DC till late 2007, no one else could get a look in. But would they want to? “Vertigo won’t publish it… Marvel’s MAX line won’t publish it… hell, it was even too much for Avatar” said Grant. Paty put it down to a anti-semitic conspiracy. “But I’m, not Jewish” said Grant. “Yes, but the anti-semites don’t know that” she bellowed.

And Stephanie Fierman expressed equal ignorance over the winner – Jeph Loeb’s decision to sign an exclusive deal with Marvel as DC weren’t as interested in something similar – which meant he brought Joe Madueira to the table, back to comics and onto Ultimates 3, instead on both working on a DC book as they’d planned…

NOT PAYING AWARD

It’s a fact that as long as there are comic book publishers, there are comic book freelancers not being paid. Mike Miller asked “Did not Jesus say that there the poor freelancers will always be with us?” Paty Cockrum pointed out that her husband had only recently received Nightcrawler money due him, and that the Kirby estate has received nothing from Marvel for years – including from the Fantastic Four movie. John Dokes blew his saxophone at her.

But Fierman pointed out that, quite bizarrely, DC had paid discretionary amounts of money to a number of creators whose work appeared in some form in “Batman Begins.”

Conversely David Lloyd pointed out that Alan Moore has successfully managed not to be paid for Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Constantine, as he jumped around in a big pile of money that had recently been delivered by a large truck.

Morrison added that V For Vendetta was all wrong and, in any case, was ripped off a play he’d written in 1975 for a one off performance to thirty people, but that he was sure everyone in the world had been influenced by its sexual vibes. Everyone agreed so they wouldn’t have to talk about it any more.

Robert Kirkman recalled that Speakeasy added a new twist to the tradition by announcing that creators would have to pay them, something that hasn’t been tried since Marvel’s bankruptcy.

Scott Kurtz recalled Richard Emms of APC and Mike Netzer, dancing across the internet message boards, until they came to resolution. “I want more blood from my feuds” he demanded.

But the grand prize had to go to Dreamwave for leaving so many creators in the hole for tens of thousands of dollars, totalling 1.3 million before jumping ship, creating a new company, and moving all their corporate accounts there. Indeed, when quizzed by Marvel staffers as to why Pat Lee was still drawing books for Marvel when he’d screwed over so many, they were told that there’s a deficit of truly talented comic book artists and Marvel needed all they could get. When Kirkman pointed out that “Truly talented” apparently means “good at drawing fridges with legs” these days, John Dokes did an impromptu dance to distract attention. It worked.

STICK TO THE CREDITS CHAPS AWARD

There were a few disputed credits to choose from this year. With credits from the Absolute Crisis Index being dropped, Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes claiming ownership of Omega The Unknown (which Marvel then went on to publish a new series of, and a trade of the original work without addressing those concerns), or even Joss Whedon being repeatedly announced as attending Dragon Con when he’d never been asked, so many names weren’t being put to so many faces.

But there was one name that kept coming up. Repeatedly. Alan Moore.

The Captain Britain trade paperback received a second printing from Marvel, correcting the credits mistake from the first printing (and adding a missing page). Then Moore was to fight to take his name off the V For Vendetta movie, in a move which went diametrically against the case history of Siegel and Schuster attempt to get their name on the original Superman movie – and Paul Levitz was instrumental in both. That success seemed to spill over so that Moore’s name would then disappear off the Spawn trade paperback reprinting Spawn 8 all together.

“I’ll take the V For Vendetta credit if he doesn’t want it” said Robert Kirkman. “Based on the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman and David Lloyd, how does that sound, Stephanie?”

“Who’s Alan Moore” asked Stephanie before addressing the open jaws with “Only kidding. He’s the Irish international footballer, who played for Burnley and now currently plays for Shelboure FC. I know everything, me.”

David Lloyd said that Alan wouldn’t accept the award, but that he’d have it on his behalf as it would come in handy for propping up the new Michelangelo he’d just bought for the porch.

WHY ARE WE WAITING AWARD

Traditionally, the “Why Are We Waiting” Award has gone to books still waiting in the wings for publication. But this year, thanks to the influence of Mike Miller, it was given to books that finally emerged. “So no mention of any Alias book, got it?” he threatened with a big stick he’s happened across.

John Dokes was pleased to hear Marvel’s demand that Marvel staff and Diamond staff not reveal to anyone that Iron Man would be rescheduled months late, only a couple of issues into the Warren Ellis/Adi Granov run. Or the long wait for Wha Huh to be published after Marvel lawyers began second guessing themselves over mocking the competition.

And the Anglophone industry was relieved not to be held to book for not publishing David Lloyd’s detective graphic novel in English or Bryan Talbot’s Alice In Sunderland graphic novel in any language.

No this year, we saw Kevin Smith finish his Spider-Man/Black Cat series and Daredevil Target finally rescheduled. The last issue of God War came out (finally). But it would have to be the very long awaited Image Tenth Anniversary Hardcover, published 13 1/2 years after Image started that would get the prize. An origin for Savage Dragon, a new start for Shadowhawk, a Gaiman bait from Todd McFarlane and something from Silvestri and friends.

IN YOUR POCKET AWARD

Slightly suspect relationships became quite the hot potato this year.

Rich Johnston reporting on Speakeasy’s changing scenarios when he had a book in the pipeline was suddenly a favourite by all judges for this award.

Dreamwave’s sudden transfer of properties and assets to Dream Engine saw a number of eyebrows raise.

The moment Lamppost Printers closed down all comics printing projects aside from Alias books – who co-owned the company. “What’s wrong about that?” asked Mike Miller. “What’s worse is actually printing our own competition, that’s real insanity”.

DC’s attempt to pull in the Alan Moore LOEG story came a cropper when Time Warner owned Entertainment Weekly covered it. However, for the rest of the year they did very well.

Mark Millar’s repeated use of Senay Boztas to report some clear exaggerations of his work in the mainstream press, only for him to use the specialist comics press to correct those statements to the only people who would actually care was a marketing masterpiece that caused Stephanie Fierman to bow down and mumble “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy”.

But it was the publisher “Arcana” that snatched it. As book upon book, company upon company came a cropper with Diamond’s new publication terms, “Arcana” found the easiest way to stay in the catalogue by getting the cover for the title “Dead Men Tell No Tales #1B” drawn by Filip Sablik, Diamond brand manager.

Both Robert Kirkman and Scott Kurtz seethed with jealousy. Mike Miller said “I always get my books in Previews though. Don’t always end up publishing them, that’s the hard part. What award’s next then?”

GAY AWARD OF THE YEAR

This year’s award for all things gay had a number of challengers. Including Mike Miller who asked if this category was even necessary. “These are comic books for goodness sake” he yelled. “I’m not even convinced this is a regular award in this annual contest, but has been included just to ridicule me and certain beliefs and expressions of those beliefs I hold” he continued.

But everyone else dismissed these concerns. Scott devised a role playing game for Mike in which he beat up himself, to keep him distracted.

The rumour that Midnighter would get a solo series, a first for a DC solo superhero book to star a gay, let alone a leather bound one caused much excitement.

But it would be the rumour, yet to even be reported by LITG, that the new Batwoman would star Kathy Kane with a newly revealed sexual preference (after Montaya was initially suggested) and would beat Midnighter to press, that got tongues wagging. “Literally, I hope” said Scott. John Dokes played a long slow romantic number on his saxaphone.

MADDEST MOMENT

Robert Kirkman was instantly reminded of his performance of an issue of Invincible to a small group of children with the local mayor watching. Including sound effects, and on the spot censorship of anything too naughty.

Scott Kurtz enjoyed browsing the Pat Lee Dream Engine website, still up, full of absolute madness and guff. Including a definition of Pat Lee that states he “Treasures Loyalty, and detests Rats.”

There was the Newsarama interview with Joe Quesada and Brian Bendis where in one installment, they gave the impression they were to give Rich Johnston a Captain Britain book – the next he was being accused of raping comics. Worse to come, Rich Johnston was then approached by a headhunter about the infamous marketing position at DC Comics…

But it was Rumour Award judge Paty who claimed the crown for her ravings that Marvel was full of anti-semites on the basis that they’d printed stories treating Magneto as a a villain. That’s Marvel, run by Isaac Perlmutter and Avi Arad, formed by Stanley Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg, and the Magneto stories in question being written by the son of a rabbi, Brian Bendis. With Grant Morrison and Mark Millar being put in the anti-semitic spotlight for being aristocratic British snobs, that’s when the walls of reality completely broke down and everything collapsed under its own weight, until Paty reverted back to telling stories about John Byrne.

RUMOUR OF THE YEAR

The judges gathered for the final announcement of the night. The Rumour Of The Year.

The announcement of Frank Miller as the writer of All Star Batman And Robin at the end of last year’s Fifth Annual Rumour Awards was a favourite.

Rich Johnston returned, wandering up to the group, pram pushing. “No one believed me then. The bastards.”

Scott asked “Well, what have you got for us this year? Anything as juicy?”

Rich replied “Of course! My own favourite character from my childhood, Death’s Head, back and revamped by Simon Furman for Marvel, is integral to the upcoming ‘Planet Hulk’ storyline? It’s understood that while the new Death’s Head takes place in the near future (roughly 75 to 100 years out), its design and technology will be seen in the upcoming Hulk mega-event. The question of how it got to Earth, however, is another story.”

Everyone blinked. Stephanie asked “Who is Death’s Head” and for once everyone agreed, nodding.

Rich grumbled “You really are bastards. Get on with the awards” before wandering home to change Eve’s nappy again.

Diamond’s changing terms caught a lot of interest, as companies and publishers began to go under, cancel books or reorganise drastically in its wake.

The torrent of DC leaks presented an infinite crisis of its very own, with LITG reporting on Crisis 2, the Crisis spinoff series, 52, Superman and Batman Confidentials, Superman renumbering, new Blue Beetle, Ion, Freedom Fighters, Atom, Shazam, Shadowpact OMAC, Checkmate, Streets Of Gotham, Brave And The Bold, as well as the Flash and Batman revelations and creator castings. But Marvel suffered a sumilar flurry of its own with Avengers Disassembled and House Of M getting similar treatment.

The seemingly engineered division at DC Comics was to blame for its sieve-like tendencies, as executives, editors, creative consultants, creators and fans were set against each other. And when Mark Waid went public stating that the Infinite Crisis spelled the death knell for grim and gritty superhero comics at DC, it only made things worse.

But the Rumour Of The Year, the one that got reported by Entertainment Weekly and The Times after it was exclusively reported by LITG, was that Alan Moore was taking League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen to Top Shelf and Knockabout, asking for his name to be taken off V For Vendetta and dissassociating himelf from it publically, announcing his new novel Jerusalem, a graphic novel for Avatar and his impending wedding to Melinda Gebbie. All in one phonecall.

Even Stephanie Fierman realised that she had heard of this Alan Moore now and she had to confess, it led to a myriad of meetings at DC Comics. Including a decision to boycott Newsarama when they linked to the LITG column, which lasted for about three days until DC caved.

With all the awards decided upon, the judges reentered their crates as the black helicopters descended once more, taking their precious cargo to all corners of the world (well, the USA, which is practically the same thing). David Lloyd got the Megabus to Brighton and Rich pushed the pram home.

Enough. A new Lying In The Gutters in the New Year.

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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