Welcome to the one hundred and twenty-sixth chapter in the latest volume of the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Over ten years damnit! Written by British comics commentator, me, Rich Johnston, it's read by comic book professionals and readers alike. Loved and hated equally, every Monday (ish) it brings the stories not-quite-ready-for-primetime, a look behind the curtain, a sniff of the toilet seat, the worst and the best that the comics industry can inspire. Go in with your eyes open, your blinkers off and a peg on your nose.
As for the traffic lights, RED means that the story is unlikely to be true, and you should read that with that context. AMBER signifies an identifiable agenda/slant or bias in the source that may affect the work, or that the source isn't clear, or another factor that might bring the piece into doubt. GREEN means that the story feels right to me, my gut instinct says go for it. However, as is often the case, while the gist may be correct, the detail may be wrong - and in fact I may be having an off day and the whole thing may be buggered. It wouldn't be the first time.
Warning. This column contains vaguely possible "Identity Crisis" spoilers. But the odds aren't good.
They never said PR was going to be an easy job. Not everyone can be a CJ off of "The West Wing" (or even a PJ off of DC Comics).
So let's hear it for Candice Chan of Dreamwave Productions, up in Canada.
Recently, she had to deal with enquiries on the Dreamwave message boards about topics brought up in this very column - reports of unpaid, partially paid or very very late paid creators, and the effect that was having on Dreamwave's production schedule.
And, like the diligent soldier she is, she said she'd ask the bigwigs and post a reply in the next few hours.
A few hours later, the reply came - by deleting the thread.
This week Dreamwave announced they were tackling the problem by "adding" new creators to help out. Namely Chris Sarracini, the writer of the very-well-selling Volume One from the "Transformers G1" series. Sounds like good news?
Well, simultaneously Candice sent out the following confidential memo, announcing that James McDonough (also known as Brad Mick) and Adam Patyk had been fired from Dreamwave and the books.
Not sure how replacing two creators with one creator is meant to speed up production, or indeed "add" to creators, but hey. At least, in principle, it stops any pesky demands by creators to get paid before they turn any new work in.
The memo started off fairly traditionally, when two individuals have left a company under acrimonious circumstances...
Subject: Dear Supporting Press Members of Dreamwave
From: "Candice Chan"
Date: Wed, November 17, 2004 1:40 pm
Dear Supporting Press Members of Dreamwave,
Dreamwave Productions would like to notify you that Mr. James McDonough and Mr. Adam Patyk will no longer be representing Dreamwave as of Monday, November 15, 2004.
All future correspondences with Mr. McDonough or Mr. Patyk concerning Dreamwave Productions and its properties should be forwarded to Dreamwave's attention.
Which is all fair enough. And then the madness started.
Please be aware that all public postings on your website from either Mr. McDonough or Mr. Patyk that contains information regarding Dreamwave Productions and its properties must be removed immediately as it is private information used without permission of Dreamwave. All such messages should also be forwarded to myself.
What was that noise? Was that the sound of sixty thousand eyebrows raising simultaneously? Excellent. She continues, as if this was a perfectly reasonable request.
We value our relationship with you so we apologize for this slight inconvenience, as we are taking steps to improve the quality of Dreamwave's services and products. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
This message is confidential.
Public Relations Manager
Dreamwave Productions Inc.
The Tformers website decided to report the story that the two were leaving. Which caused a small scene as the memo was meant to be confidential. Except that people complaining about the memo being confidential, only confirmed its existence, and the validity of the story.
Then James McDonough and Adam Patyk emailed me to confirm the story, saying, "We have a dispute with Dreamwave regarding our departure. We are owed a significant amount of unpaid fees which are being claimed from Dreamwave."Lying In The Gutters has been reporting similar stories regarding Dreamwave freelance employees over the last few months. But both James and Adam are significant creators in Dreamwave's output, James having a high level position within the company. Naturally message boards kicked off with abuse against Dreamwave as a result, with bullet takers jumping in as usual.
All this may make you feel sorry for poor Candice Chan on the frontline of all this. But don't worry. She has her own fashion line in the wings just ready to go.... rockstars by day, ass-kicking heroines by night!
And since Dreamwave are making such a big thing of getting books out on time and done right, it would be churlish and indeed hypocritical to draw attention to the misspelling in big old headline type of the word "expansion" (t instead of the s) on the back cover of the latest "Transformers Energon" comic. So I won't.
Instead I'll check in with a poster purporting to be a Dreamwave staff member calling themselves The Puppet Master, posting, "(James), You were constantly talking shit about your colleagues. I'm sure you are aware of the many mistakes you made during your tenure at Dreamwave especially while you were in Canada. I'm going to give you a little advice (I somewhat owe it to you). As hard as you try to cover your tracks, if someone hates you they will tell all. Don't be so eager to burn those bridges because one day you're going to need them again.
"Adam, I never had the opportunity to meet you and all I have to say to you is, 'be careful.'
"For the both of you, just remember anything you have said and are about to say will just ruin your reputation (what is left of it).
"I have to say James, it was great watching you suffer during your final few months in Canada. I knew how miserable and lonely you were, I especially enjoyed watching all you colleagues, one by one turn on you."
WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?
Parents shocked by Grant Morrison X-Men comic! Yaysayers blaming Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas for "derogatory language, erotic images and talk of molestation in the book."
Although, if memory serves (and a quick glance at the Essential volumes on my bookshelf), these have been recurring motifs since the Byrne/Claremont days...
HE IS THE LAW
So what is the superhero news for Jude Law alluded to in last week's column? Harvey Dent at the end of "Batman Begins?" With Kerry Conran on "The Silver Surfer?" John Pritchett has been asked to dummy up Jude Law again with those "Road To Perdition" teeth and curly ginger hair... of course, most of that would be hidden under a trilby and a pulsating black and white mask...
From Jay Faerber's message board, concrete evidence of that rumoured "other" team of Image superheroes that seems to have replaced the previous aborted attempt that included "Spawn" and "Witchblade ."
Checking the HTML, looks like it's from Jim Valentino's own online collection of images. "The Pact" was previously Jim Valentino's team comic from the nineties.
Michael Netzer is back. And his wacky change-the-world-with-comics website has been majorly updated.
No seriously. Though apparently I have steam-filled gutters.
He wants you all to know about it.
He even talks about Neal Adams and starts a fight between Mel Gibson and Mark Millar, though I think he's got a not-uncommon reading of that particular gospel.
He's clearly barking. But that never stopped David Icke from being entertaining.
Dreamwave and Devil's Due licensed comics are not available in the UK. CMX is not available in the UK. Roman Dirge books from Slave Labor are not available in the UK.
Now it seems only the first version of "The Incredibles" comic book will make it into the UK from Dark Horse. Again, a licensing glitch only brought up after the first issue had been shipped.
Ah well. At least we got the movie. Didn't even have to wait a year for it, or anything. And wow, what a movie!
Got a lot of hats to sell on eBay? Why not get The Incredible Hulk to help you out...
And many more.
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO ASK ABOUT MARK MILLAR BUT WERE TOO BORED TO GO THROUGH THE PRESS CUTTINGS
This column has occasionally looked at how Mark Millar has represented himself rather well over the years in the press. It's nice to see someone make the media jump as if they were a pet monkey, and damn I'm jealous of him.
Sunday Herald last week ran a story about Mark Millar. And again, as Millar recognised instantly (to deflect criticism) online, a number of the CV points were incorrect or exaggerated. Whether that's creating the Authority, the world's first gay superheroes, being the chief writer at Marvel, or "Red Son" as a reaction to the Iraq war. On his board, Millar dismissed this as being old files cropping up somewhere and how hard it was to change inaccuracies once they've been in print.
The reporter was Senay Boztas, who has written similar high profile articles in the Scottish press about Mark, again using the same inaccuracies. For some reason, Millar has not ensured they're not repeated, despite Millar describing Senay as "the girl who always does my stuff." Senay was also one of the people behind Eminem wanting to star in the movie of "Wanted," a fictitious story cooked up by Millar, his agent and willing reporters eager for column inches and media attention. It worked.
However, that little fiction is now off Senay's profile stories of Mark Millar. Eminem's people were so incensed the last time that lawyers were mentioned, and Millar himself has moved the focus well away from Eminem where he can.
These errors, written by Saney or not, do seem to be catching and have been repeated time and time again. Now, I know journalists are a lazy and cowardly lot, but this amount of consistency in repetition looks like a little bit of spin in the right place, and a willing blind eye on occasion.
In that last piece, Millar claimed he spent "1 week out of every five in New York, worked as a Creative Consultant on 'Spider-Man 2' and is even more involved in the 3rd film, having written a script treatment for it." Hmm. IMDB disagrees.
As for the oft-repeated claim that Millar wrote the first gay superheroes in "The Authority," and Millar's insistence he's always stated he wrote for the first gay superhero couple, his own column contradicts that claim.
He also seems to state he wrote "Red Son" after "The Authority," "Ultimates" and "Avengers" and indeed 9/11 and the introduction of Homeland Security when that was never the case - "Red Son" was a much delayed project due to artist problems, and was written well before then.
Pete Ross calls Mark Millar a "Canny Man" and there's no doubt that's the case with Millar skilfully reimagining himself and his "controversial" resume depending on which constituent he's preaching to. Millar himself has admitted as much, in one of his first ever interviews, in the Cal Hab Herald. "Many of these [controversial] stories have emerged at times when Millar's career needed boosting. And he is the first to admit that headline-grabbing tactics do play a part. 'I think it's just attention seeking,' he says. 'Someone like Jimmy McGovern will open every one of his dramas with something like an anal sex scene. And I've realised I'm like that too.'"
As Millar has stated "anytime I have a big project coming out, I always make sure that a big, influential newspaper does a feature on it before it appears in the comic stores. Take Superman: Red Son for example, I wrote a big article for the Sunday Times here in the UK, and made sure that the national newspapers picked up on the monthly, because they all copy the Sunday Times stories, and the International press got a hold of it on Tuesday. These newspapers, like television programs, have pages and pages to sell every day, and if we can sell the story to them properly, they're desperate for good, eye-catching material, and they'll use it, and give us free publicity." Millar is especially canny in this regard by using the Scottish press, desperate for Scottish related stories with international relevance - and foreign press can't tell the difference online between an article written as part of a local quota system, or something from the main version of the paper.
He's good, I'll give him that. Maybe I can pretend to be Scottish, I've got the surname...
FLIGHT OF FANCY
Scott Lobdell has been talking (albeit in private e-mail) about the cancellation of "Alpha Flight."
In which he tries to get Marvel to publish in black and white and calls Grant Morrison a coward. Go look!
EVERYONE MUST GO OUT AND BUY THIS IMMEDIATELY
ONE MORE AROUND THE IDENTITY CRISIS
Strap yourself in folks. Jericho Wilson writes his latest theory on... that comic.
"You'll note 3 Identity Crisis villains on Wizard's year-end poll: Calculator, Deathstroke and Doctor Light. I can confirm that Wizard has read I.C. #7 and those villains are the masterminds (but not the murderers) of the story.
"After an exhaustive amount of research online (thank you, Google.com), I offer you an explanation for those pesky Nightwing & Green Lantern rumors regarding Identity Crisis that were sent to you. Blame it all on Jason Todd.
"Jason is a former Robin (and he kills Sue Dibny on the anniversary of the death of Nightwing's parents). Hence, the rumor has some corroboration. Your source did get it partially right. Just mixed up his former Robins. Same thing with the Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) rumor. Because in DC's Day Of Judgment mini-series, Hal Jordan shared purgatory with... Jason Todd.
"Jason is the son of Doctor Light and Sue Dibny. After Calculator got beaten by the JLA, Calculator hired Deathstroke to spy on Batman. So Deathstroke used the *Tara Markov* method: he sent a chain-smoking teenager to live in a rundown building and commit crimes so as to get the attention of superheroes. The teenager was Jason Todd and the superhero Jason was sent to spy on was Batman.
"Jason gets himself killed after Terra does, too. But Terra gets her life back. And Hal Jordan gets the Spirit of Redemption and the power of The Spectre... while Jason sits in purgatory and rots. Years later, a bitter Jason finally gets out of limbo and into Heaven. Only to watch yet another hero (Green Arrow) get a 2nd chance at life and is livid to see Ollie Queen just stroll right outta Heaven. Enraged, Jason follows him back to Earth and proceeds to haunt Wayne Manor. After all, it was Jason's job to spy on Batman in the first place.
"As we saw in Judd Winick's Batman, Jason promises to murder people ("There'll be a lot of them") and that Bats won't be able to stop him. At the end of that story, Alfred is seen lying to Robin about finding Jason's mask--and looks back at Jason's ghost in the Batcave. Hush was right, after all: Batman did leave his "spy" vulnerable. Because now Jason has got Alfred under his control.
"Jason Todd appeared in Identity Crisis #4 on pages 20 and 21. The narration is set up to fool us into thinking it's Batman narrating the captions. It is not. It's Jason Todd. Alfred has been mindswapped with Jason. Jason is commenting on what people think of serial killers:
"People think it's an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It's never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I'm doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn't that day. And tomorrow won't be either."
"So, there you have it. Jason, in Alfred's body, has been committing the murders using the size-changing belt Shadow Thief stole from The Atom. Yes, that's right. Atom was never involved. Everyone got conned. The ending to I.C. #6? Rubbish. Those silly fanboys. When a straight guy gets in bed with a sexy lady in her undies, doesn't he always have a wicked look?
"But that isn't the real secret. No, the real secret is that Brad Meltzer has pulled off the practical joke of the year. And it is a joke.
"For you see...
"Identity Crisis is a Killing Joke. And what, you may ask, is the punchline?
"The butler did it."
I hope you all realise I didn't actually read this through before cut and pasting it into my column. Just so you know.
TAKE IT TO THE DEAN
Michael Dean's working on a piece on online comics journalism for The Comics Journal. For some reason he came to me, because, apparently, people have told him I'm a comic book journalist.
People keep calling me that, I'm going to have to start taking names.
RECRUITING IN THE GUTTERS
If you've got a story, talk to me. Your identity will remain anonymous unless you wish otherwise. You can choose a pseudonym and join the ranks of the Gutterati. Or be a demon reposter, join the Gutter Snipes and spread the word about stories in this column across the Internet, where relevant. Then tell me where you've put them up - the more mainstream the better!
You can contact me at:
- AOL Instant Message me at TwistRich
- 0780 1350982 (01144780 1350982 from N America)
- Anthrax packages can be sent to 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU, ENGLAND
Be seeing you.