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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOL 2 COLUMN 30

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 sources and checked with respective publisher representatives before publication. 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.

SECONDARY MUTATION

[Green Light]

It’s not just the world of mutants that’s changing after “House Of M.” The comics are also going through yet another revamp and creative shift, before the next movie comes out and before the 500th issue of Uncanny X-Men. Ed Brubaker is favourite to write “Uncanny X-Men,” while Chris Claremont is being shunted off the central titles yet again…

ON AGAIN OFF AGAIN

[Green Light]

Allan Heinberg has pulled out of “Wonder Woman,” before he’d even really began. And no, that’s not some image you just don’t want in your head, but the latest twist and turn to DC’s upcoming publishing schedule.

He was to have written the new “Wonder Woman” series with artist Terry Dodson – Heinberg pitched for the book and was accepted, then wrote a rough outline of the first few issues. But sadly, he’s had to drop out of the book.

COMICS, MUST ADVERTISE

[Green Light]

Those of you who know me well (or who actually read this column properly) will know that I work in advertising.

Well, of late, Marvel Comics has received increased criticism over the amount of ads they’ve been running. Dotted around the book, it’s often been the case that you get one story page opposite an ad page, then another story, then an ad, throughout the book. And there has been some audible disquiet that this has spoiled the reading experience. Readers seem willing to accept some advertising, but not so much.

Recently on stage in Brighton, Mark Millar attacked such an attitude, stating he didn’t see advertising as a problem. However, he did accept that DC’s policy of informing creators where ads would appear, allowed them to work natural gaps in around ad breaks. And they never ran quite as many as Marvel do now.

Of course, it wasn’t too long ago that ads would appear half way down a page in a comic book. But as ads become more adult and flashier, their power to distract the reader has become greater – hey, they’re only doing their job.

Alan Moore had enough clout to demand all the ads go to the back on his ABC line. And that’s where Image ads appear too, if only for other Image titles.

But recently Marvel made noises that it understood there was a problem and they were addressing it. And recently ads have started appearing at the back of the book instead of all the way through.

And as a result, there have been complaints from readers enjoying a book, get to the point where it’s getting really good, think they’ve got another half a book to read, and the story just ends. You can’t please everyone can you? Well, looking at most message boards, it seems Marvel never can.

Although one interesting point – all these books are being advertised as 32 page comic books (usually with 22 pages of story). While the added pages for advertising don’t impact on the customer that much, the retailer has to pay for the extra shipping cost – is this an argument they could use to make Marvel’s entire shipment returnable? Anyone? Anyone? Hibbs?

Certainly allowing excessive advertising can bring problems to the perception of your medium. It’s very difficult to turn money away, but if it disrupts your retail model negatively, it should be considered – or a new model sought. Less advertising could be accepted, but at a higher cost. There could be more product placement. It’s taken a while for comics to be considered a legitimate medium or subsection of the magazine for brand names to advertise non-child-targeted messages to, but acting like a kid in a sweet shop has its own problems. Television is having to face up to what happens when viewers skip the ads – something comic readers have always been able to do. Making them less skippable, or having the weight of them change the reading experience significantly, is something that might still need to be looked at.

Recently Image creators were emailed with a copy of the above ad for Comedy Central text messaging services. And it’s started to appear on the back or towards the back of the comic.

Creators have been told that they will receive around $200 if they don’t opt out of having the ad, or another ad in the series, there.

For some creators with lower sales, who might not make as much as they’d like off an Image book, this could make the difference between quitting and keeping going.

Nice one, Image.

SPEAKEASY, PRINT HARDUpdated 1:40 PM PST

[Green Light]

Earlier today, Marshall Dillon sent an email round to Speakeasy creators talking about a change in business plans. I know, because I’m a Speakeasy writer. For “The Flying Friar” graphic novella. I may have mentioned it once or twice.

Maybe a call to Adam Fortier, Speakeasy CEO was in order.

Speakeasy runs a business model that is in some ways very similar to Image Comics. Creators who bring books to Speakeasy own those books 100%. When publishing, Speakeasy takes a fixed fee, as well as negotiated printing and advertising costs. Whatever is left, goes to the creators.

The big difference is that with Image, if your balance ends up negative, you don’t owe anything. You just get no money. With Speakeasy, you owe that difference. A business model which makes Speakeasy’s the only publisher in comics guaranteed not to lose money – its own that is.

Trouble is, the market isn’t the easiest for independent comics right now. And Adam Fortier doesn’t want to saddle creators with debt or force them to cancel a book in mid-run if orders are too low. Hell, lowly comic creators may not be your best financial risk anyway and Fortier didn’t get into this game to be a loan shark. He’d much rather publish comics than send out bounty hunters. He offers another more viable option.

First, he has set a sales minimum on the book, Speakeasy’s break even number of 1750 copies. Those that don’t reach it can either pay upfront for printing costs if they wish and are able to. For others, the book is cancelled, but can be put online at the about-to-be-revamped Speakeasy website.

The pattern goes as follows, according to Fortier. A book’s first issue sells okay, makes money, the second breaks even, the third and fourth lose money. So rather than cancel the book outright, just cancel it in print and put the last two issues online for free. With no printing or handling fee for the creator from Speakeasy. Those readers following the book get a great deal, are guaranteed to be able to finish the series with no comics left hanging, and a completed mini series can then be represented for foreign of mass media rights – which might then lead to the book becoming financially viable again, finishing the series in print or as a graphic novel.

Fortier acknowledges that some retailers may be put out by this, especially those who have sold the book’s previous issues and have ordered subsequent issues, with waiting customers. Fortier recommends for retailers with a desperate fan, printing the book out as a PDF as a gift for them. But the alternative was not publishing the book at all. And that this policy is aimed as “extending the longetivity of the product so it that one day it can be printed.”

And this model has other opportunities. Promoting comics. Completing series from other publishers, by putting already published issues online. This way they can continue the series and allow new readers to get on board. And also create a business model to pay to download comics that have been printed, if a reader has no local comic shop.

This will be a controversial move. Some will see it as a failure of Fortier’s vision, or a smack in the face by the reality of the industry. But with the current market squeezing out anyone who’s not publishing “House Of M” or “Infinite Crisis,”, it’s evidence that Fortier is living up to his Smartest Man In Comics TM tag by twisting in new and unpredictable manners.

Of course, he stole the idea from me.

SELL YOUR TRADES AND HARDCOVERS NOW

[Green Light]

Coming from Marvel. An “Alias” Omnibus HC. Every issue of Brian Bendis’ “Alias,” in oversized hardcover, one volume, 700 pages, under $70. Confirmed.

Everyone get to eBay…

I MEAN, WHAT, I MEAN, HOW, I MEAN…

[Green Light]

John Byrne has the amazing ability to rise the shackles of all sorts of people. It’s admirable in a way, that he refuses to back down on anything, no matter how small, no matter how many may disagree with him. It even manages to prove his point for him. And his tendency to repeatedly say something mind-blowingly offensive without accepting that anyone reasonably might find it so, is almost loveable. Like the Uncle who has one too many sherries at Christmas. The message board threads that spill out of his every utterance seem a clear overreaction, even when insanely funny.

And indeed this column has been party to that, in a kind of “what’s he done now” kind of way. Well. “What’s he done now.”

Peter David has been a foil of his of old. And recently, when Byrne dredged up the old chestnut about a comic story concerning the character Lockjaw being retconned away by David, at the request of David’s editor, well…

“Really creeps me out when PAD plays the ‘I was only following orders’ card.” (here)

Impressive. John Byrne manages to compare the Jewish writer Peter David, whose parents fled Nazi Germany, to those who gave the famed defence at the Nurembourg trials.

Well, looks like I’m creeped out, too.

MONEY. THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT.Updated 12/14/05 1:00 AM PST

[Yellow Light]

Getting a number of reports that West End Games, the role playing game publisher, is looking like… well…

Contributors having trouble getting paid.

Phone numbers on contracts are suddenly disconnected.

Eric Gibson, publisher, meant to handling payment issues, but not
responding to enquiries.

Breakdown in communication between members of the company.

Projects being put on hiatus.

Gibson tells me “We are… suffering the painful effects of a general
slowdown in the industry. I’m in the process of trying to exit my
warehouse lease– an oppressive overhead– and as a result it is largely
unmanned, hence the reason I’ve chosen to disconnect phone service.

“As far as our lack of communication, ‘we’ right now is primarily
‘me.’ I’ve been attending school this last semester and as a result,
my time has been severely stretched.”

“There continues to be a few contributors that have not been paid and this will be rectified. Anyone feeling that we own them for services completed should email me and we’ll get things squared-away.

“We have slowed down a great deal in the past few months, but WEG survives and will continue to for the foreseeable future.”

COOPER MAN

[Green Light]

So who would you like to see present a radio documentary on superhero comic books?

How about Alice Cooper?

“Biff Zap Pow”, Tuesday 13th December 20:30-21:30 GMT on BBC Radio 2, live streaming at www.bbc.co.uk/radio2

That’s 15:30 EST, 12:30 PST

Alice Cooper tells the incredible true story of the timeless, indestructible caped crusaders, born in the early years of the twentieth century and now at the peak of their powers.

Featuring contributions from writers, artists and fans including Stan Lee, John Romita, Roy Thomas, Neil Tennant and comedian Stewart Lee.

This might be the first time The Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant talks about his time as a Marvel editor.

Shame about the title though.

WHEN COMIC CREATORS KICK OFF

[Green Light]

Alex Ross on not being part of the new Superman movie, despite it being visually based on much of his work:

“I’ve been quoted as being inspiration for the film, but I was never invited to be part of the project.”

Mike Wieringo on someone’s attempt to translate a French interview

“I MOST CERTAINLY said NOTHING about being pissed at Marvel about ANYTHING.”

Ron Marz on the revamp of “The Spectre.”

“I wasn’t enthused about ‘Hal as Spectre,’ which was frankly an idea that came from a message board (I kid you not).”

My favourite blog today. How not to make your comic characters look bisexual.

UK DELAY

[Green Light]

Watch out chaps. There’s been an import delay this week… Diamond UK is planning to get this weeks delivery into UK shops on Friday 16th, instead of Thursday.

Still, having to wait one more day for “Secret War” #5 isn’t going to kill you, is it?

SWIPE FILE

[Red Light]

Joe Quesada:

“Right. For the longest time I’ve been an advocate that fans will always want the tangible book in their hands, and I came to that feeling because of what I saw as the reading habits of most folks on the net. But recently I’ve been a convert, I’m watching a very young generation of kids who are born into today’s computers and I realized that my take on this was completely selfish and was coming from a point of all that I knew and not what was really happening out there. My generation and those before me found comics on racks, we found them at stores, we found them as marked up collectables or as mylared treasures. So as I discovered them, that is how I prefer them. But there is a time coming, when for some kids the very first time they read a comic they’ll be reading it on their computer or their phone or PDA. That’s what comics will be to them and that number of kids will grow rapidly. Fans ask how we can bring the price of comics down; this is how it may happen.”

Rich Johnston (Download Or Be Damned):

“While much of the existing and aging fanbase is uncomfortable reading off the screen, that’s not the case with new readers. For younger audiences, more used to getting everything they want off a close, bright-lit screen, reading comics online is as valid and acceptable an experience as reading them off the page. Plus, the colours are brighter, the lines sharper, there’s no dulling brought on by a printing process.

“Some people have wondered why the industry has not been attracting new readers, even as the Hollywood machine goes to work. The reality appears that they have been, it’s just the new readers haven’t been paying. They have bypassed the inconvenient, expensive and often non-existent comic shop and have gone directly to their peers, who upload comics in return for respect and admiration.

“Comic companies, especially the big two, need to think about how they can make their product available at a cheap price, for download.”

Okay, okay, it’s a stretch. Shut up.

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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