For the last twelve years I've been writing a rumour and gossip column while some have insisted I'm the only investigative journalist in comics. A label I was happy to refuse, as I was more interested in providing a column for entertainment.

The birth of my first daughter, Eve, three months ago, gave me the chance to take a sabbatical and consider something new.

So for six weeks, Lying In The Gutters is being run as an investigative journalism column. Just to see what the fuss is all about. Fewer, but longer stories, a little less nonsense, a little more substance. After the six weeks are up, you'll be given the opportunity to vote which version of the column you prefer to continue. If you can tell the difference.

The division in attitude towards the new column has been extreme, but equally balanced. In one week's time, it's going to be Bush Vs Gore all over again. However, in this case, the one with the most votes will actually win.

If you wish to voice your support on either version of the column, don't email me yet. Go to the message boards and make your opinion known. Start a campaign.


Joe Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, and now well known in the comics world for his work on "Amazing Spider-Man," has been clarifying and expanding upon his comics work load, through the Moderated Babylon 5 newsgroup.

As well as the previously announced "Silver Surfer" miniseries, "Dream Police" and "The Book Of Lost Souls," Straczynski states that the current Spider-Man arc will "segue into the big Spidey event that will occupy pretty much the rest of the year and span all of the relevant titles."

Also mentioned were two "Supreme Power" spinoff mini-series before the series relaunches as a Marvel Knights title, "Nighthawk" and "Hyperion," the latter written by Straczynski.

But more mysteriously was the mention of a miniseries called "Bullet Points" for mid 2006. Straczynski has been creating the majority of his comics work for Marvel, it can be assumed this will be part of that. As is his new unnamed maxi-series for Marvel.

Marvel did not choose to comment on these revelations.


A few months ago, Lying In The Gutters received e-mails trying to out Jack Lawrence ("Lions, Tigers And Bears") and Theo Bain ("Gimoles") as creators of the BritDoodz website, a site which showed off gay fantasy comic book poses, created by the pair. While there was no particular secret that Jack and Theo were a couple, it also wasn't something that had been publicly shared.

In discussion with Jack and Theo, they decided to out themselves on the website and talk about it on LITG rather than wait for a smear campaign to do so. However days after this, the more explicit shots had been removed, leaving a rather bowlderised site.

This week, the full site went back up. I talked to Jack to ask him what was going on. I suggested that BritDoodz seemed to be a labour of love, so what was the need initially for pseudonyms?

Jack replied, "Yeah, a labour of love is exactly what Britdoodz is. There's been a lot of male-oriented adult art out there for a long time, but very little that really appealed to me visually. I've loved the works of Tom of Finland and Harry Bush since I first stumbled across them years ago, but there was very little else to really excite me. The genre seems to be flourishing at the moment, and obviously the Internet brings the community right to your computer screen, instantly.

"Britdoodz has only just had its official launch. It's been in development for a couple of years, on and off, and during that period we did use pseudonyms for the site, simply because we felt that any career that should come from Britdoodz should really be kept separate from our more mainstream comic careers. Not through any shame on our part, certainly not, but rather for our fans and for the publishers we work with. Not everyone wants to be exposed to this kind of art. Of course, all of those decisions were taken out of our hands, and I actually couldn't be happier."

At the time it was suggested that BritDoodz had been changed over pressure relating to Jack's work on the about-to-be-launched kid-aimed "Lions, Tigers And Bears" from Alias/Image - coupled with the very public perception based on message board posts that publisher Mike Miller was homophobic. Indeed, there were suggestions that Miller had been ostracised at DC Comics for that reason.

Jack denied this. "There was no pressure from any one person or publisher. Britdoodz was thrust into the public eye, before it was finished, by a malicious gossip. The fact that someone was trying to destroy us or bring us down shocked us both, and we felt it best to just avoid any boat rocking by taking down any images that could be used as ammunition against us. In fact, we needn't have worried. As individual creators, the emails poured in offering friendship and support, LTB continued to sell out, and our reception at this year's Bristol Comic Expo was incredible. There's also the fact that work is piling in based on the Britdoodz site itself.

"Image and Alias have both been great to work with. I think the important thing for both publishers is to get good comic books out there. LTB was a sell out, and 'The Gimoles' is getting some great buzz. Other areas of our careers shouldn't, and don't matter.

"Mike Miller has said some things that have been misunderstood, some that have been all too clear. I think Mike's biggest problem has been that he's too honest, too vocal, on the Internet. He has his beliefs, and that's fine, we all do. If he ever was really homophobic, I honestly don't think he is now. He and I get on just fine. Obviously, if Alias were to go on record with homophobic remarks, I'd have to rethink my position, but there's been absolutely nothing to make me think that Alias is an anti-gay publisher in any way."

BritDoodz can be explored at www.BritDoodz.com


Yesterday, the BBC were in Oxford to film a feature on politics and comics for an upcoming strand of their The Daily Politics TV show, seen on BBC2 daytime television. Amongst the contributors were the 2000AD publishers, Rebellion, and the writer of this column, Rich Johnston and his collaborator Neill Cameron, who are both working on a prospective comic book series/graphic novel entitled "Political Creatures."

The show is due to air next Monday at 11.30 to 12.30 and will stream on the BBC website for 24 hours. This site will update if this schedule changes.



As Grant Morrison is confirmed as an editorial consultant on the DC Universe, it might be fun to look back on exactly what he means about a "newly-sentient" DC Universe. He first publicly espoused the plan at the ICA in 2003, being interviewed by Paul Gravett.

LITG reported on the conversation at the time. Grant's belief is that superhero continuity has become so complex that, just as a human brain, it can generate consciousness. Grant intended, with a few nudges, to encourage the DC Universe to become sentient in its own right.

As for the DC treatment's for "Seven Soldiers" that Dan Didio reports didn't make the cut, but led to Morrison's new role, the most prominent missing-in-action character at the time was "The Demon."

When Lying In The Gutters first reported the concept of "Seven Soldiers," this included a version of DC's supernatural rhyming anti-hero. This was well before the current Pfeifer/Byrne "Blood Of The Demon" series was greenlit, but Morrison's initial Seven Soldiers pitch featured a re-imagined version of Etrigan The Demon in a context that was severely critical and mocking of the Catholic Church. This was too much for DC at the time. It is not known whether that position has changed.


The comic book industry is known for "creator feuds," individuals with different takes professionally, ideologically or morally, taking it out whether in person, through friends and colleagues, through message boards, through interviews and occasionally through the comic books themselves.

However after a number of high profile internet-fuelled feuds over the last few years, there seems to have been a noticeable reduction in both the number and the amount of venom expressed - as well as a desire for reconciliation. This may be down to the effects such a public brawl may have on each individuals' reputation or perhaps a maturing or both the industry and its creators.

The level of discourse between "Danger Girls" and "Wildsiderz" creator J Scott Campbell and "PVP" creator Scott Kurtz was heated to start with. Kurtz teased J Scott Campbell about a cover promise on his message board back in May. Over a month later, J Scott Campbell replied intriguingly, "I got kinda talked out of it by several people. Besides, I'm DC exclusive anyway. Sorry.Embarassed."

The back and forth between the two suddenly became very heated. However a few posts later, they began to send out mutual hugs. Campbell stated, "I really do wish you and your fans the best of luck, sincerely, with no sarcasm" with Kurtz concluding, "If I ever see you at a con, drinks are on me."

John Byrne, acclaimed comics creator and current artist on "Action Comics" and "Blood Of The Demon" has a reputation for making remarks that, however well argued or defended, have caused people offence, whether they were aimed at them or not. Feuds, whether one-sided or two have included Mark Waid, Peter David, Erik Larsen, Joe Quesada, Bill Jemas, Dwayne McDuffie, Brian Bendis and more.

But a throwaway comment on John Byrne's message board, by Ethan Van Sciver, namely, "Why does Hitler get dragged into everything?" received this response from Byrne. "Read a WW2 history book. You may find a clue." Ethan responded, "If I do that, then you'll have to promise to try to guess when someone is being facetious. Thanks for the clue." Byrne's response, "I base my deductions on available evidence" was only countered with, "Well, I won't do that in your case, because I sort of like you. Don't mind if it's mutual or not." And that was the end of that.

What kind of example are they setting to up and coming comic book creators?


The usual price of a 22 story page comic book in the direct market is between $2.50 and $3.50, with $2.95 being the current standard. Vicious Circle Project is a new publisher publishing a new series entitled "Wannabee" for $2 each issue. However, to achieve that price point, the publisher has had to make a number of cuts.

For a start it's written by a writer, who although is well known in the industry, is an anathema to good taste, sales and continued working relationships with other creators. And on top of that, it uses his own rejigged pitch scripts for the Bill Jemas penned comic book "Marville." Then Vicious Circle commissioned indy star Thomas Reidy III to draw the comic in a week and a half, inbetween his more glamourous movie jobs. With nice thick markers, a reluctance to pencil before inking, and no reference shots of the prominent comics individuals featured withon. Vicious also shrank the size of the comic to use less paper. We used to call this a mini-comic, but for the purposes of marketing, they're calling this the "22 Story Page Digest" format. And then got the writer to do his own covers by ripping them off the designs for "Wanted."

"Wannabee" is the rip roaring story of a time traveller trying to break into the comic book industry by kidnapping Alan Moore. And only one instance where the panels just repeat each other down the page. Much better than it has any right to be on God's Earth. And it's only $2.

Copies of "Wannabee" issue 1 will be on sale at The Vicious Circle Project booth at San Diego, stands F-10 and F-11.


For other comic and non-comic book related nonsense, check out the Twistblog.

I'm selling the contents of my bookshelves in stages right now on eBay. There are 50 items up, and 10 additional items going up each day for the next two weeks. A cheap way to get some prestige TPBs and HCs from Love & Rockets to Queen & Country, from Fables to Dredd, from Liberty Meadows to Sin City. Click here for the list. I tend to attract snipers so make those bids your maximums!

Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum.

And contact me on richjohnston@gmail.com

You can also write to me at 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU ENGLAND

Or call me on 0780 135082 from the UK or 01144780 1350982 from the US.

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