Welcome to the one hundred and twenty-second 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.

So there you go.

Look just shut up okay? It's Sunday morning, I'm writing Lying In The Gutters and I'm hungover. There was a London mini-convention yesterday, which necessarily led to a night in the bar with fellow alcoholics. Sex (Tony), drugs (Tim) and rock'n'roll... (whoever it was who kept putting Queen records on in the bar). Oh, and I seemed to get a stalker called Martin. Cheers. So let's keep it down to a gentle roar, hmm?


[Green Light]The convention's star stage interview to which neither Jonathan Ross or Grant Morrison turned up to, nevertheless was probably just as entertaining as Bob Wayne, Dan DiDio, Frazer Irving and Si Spurrier tried to give answers to Jonathan Ross' videotaped questions for Grant Morrison, both their own answers and what they thought Grant Morrison might say. Until it all got too philosophical, magickal and bollockal.

All pretty entertaining stuff, and the room was in laughter for much of the hour-and-a-half. No one really seems to have minded Grant's absence. Much is a blur (see above) but we did, however, learn that Bob Wayne in his "Timemasters" series from years ago, feels proud of getting the word "shit" into one of his issues by splitting it over two panels and getting it past the editor.

DiDio also let slip one of his favourite lines of dialogue from one of the upcoming JLA issues, along the lines of "Alfred, has my flying saucer been delivered from the factory yet?"

And Jonathan Ross has the coolest custom-made toy collection going.


[Green Light]Indeed, the star of the comics show was, for a change, the comics. There was a lot of material making its debut and getting seen by the crowd.

One of the con's highlights in that regard was the debut of "Commercial Suicide," a professionally produced square bound oversized anthology book featuring material so distasteful that certain unnamed shops felt unable to instantly stock the title in a series of events that both parties dispute. They sold all 100 copies they brought at £5 ($10) each.

I've got a story in it drawn by Dan Fish called "Preggers - She's Up The Duff And She's Had Enough." But strips like "Palesteen" and "The Family In The House 666" are well worth the price of admission. Second scan today, BTW.

Other notable books on show were Mark Stafford's "Scenes From Books I Have Not Read," "Brodies Law," "Peckham Dreams," "Flickermaus and Gary Spencer Millidge also released a prequel to "Strangehaven," a mini-comic called Insomnia. Available from his website for £5 or $10, no "Strangehaven" fan should be without it. Atarring Alex, the lead of his ongoing series, Millidge describes the book, "if 'Strangehaven' is 'The Prisoner' then 'Insomnia' is 'Danger Man.'"

Tokyopop have set up a UK operation, moving books into UK bookshops and comic shops, as well as seeking out original talent as they have in the US.

AP Comics again looked very impressive as their library of work grows. And I saw a quote from Miramax I think on the back of a cover for issue 3 of "The Chase" that looked rather telling...


[Green Light]"Tank Girl" is to return! Titan Books are to publish two original prestige format books by creators Alan Martin and Jamie ("Gorillaz") Hewlett next year.

A busy year for them too... as Wildstorm publish the new "Albion" series, Titan are rushing out reprints of the originals - kicking off with "The Spider!" (Garry Leach cover) with copious notes and essays about the character. It will also include the very first "Spider!" story written by none other than Jerry Siegel. "The Spider!" will be followed by "The Steel Claw," cover by Brian Bolland.

With November's hardcover of "Charley's War," it's time for America to be introduced to a nostalgia for something they never knew existed.


[Green Light]This was Kev Sutherland's last UK convention that he's running, though he'll still be involved in a presenting/PR form in future conventions. Comics International's Dez Skinn and Mike Conroy will do a followup in Bristol next year, but then expect the show to move to Brighton with some big local backing.

Kev took a UK comics convention scene that has drifted to non-existence (or Manchester, whichever you prefer) and revitalised it. While it may never have reached the glory days of the UKCAC in the eighties, it brought a more mainstream audience, realised the importance of socialisation at such events and broke down barriers for many.

Of late he's been the subject of a series of verbal attacks from grudge-minded individuals, which as he says, has taken much of the joy out of it and may have stymied promotion for this weekend's particular event.

But from the general mood of the convention, in front and behind the tables, in the talk rooms and in the bar, the joy seemed present all around. Very little moaning, whining, complaining... are we sure this was a comics convention? Apparently so.

Nice one, Kev.


[Green Light]With Halloween this week, here's a look at Darick Robertson in his Nightcrawler costume from many years ago.

As usual I'll be handing out inappropriate comics at the door. I've got a stack of "Beatiful Stories For Ugly Children" that need a home.

Of course, for something really to be scared about, may I recommend BBC 2's "The Power Of Nightmares," a look at a century of terrorism, what was true, what wasn't, and how governments and organisations from both sides have played with our minds. Three part series, part one, "Baby It's Cold Outside" doing the bittorrent round at suprnova.org and uknova.com


[Green Light]On the Joe Quesada board, posters have been telling John Byrne evangelist and Ohio resident Rod Odom that they'll buy "Doom Patrol" up to issue 18 (the current guaranteed schedule of the book), if he'll vote for John Kerry instead of Ralph Nader.

Rod accepted.

See? Peter David fans never thought of voting for George Bush if people would buy "Fallen Angel."

On that note, at the London con, Dan DiDio refused to be drawn into whether or not John Byrne might contribute to a speculatively-suggested Christopher Reeve tribute comic.


[Green Light]On the page, obviously. Issue 3 of Hack/Slash will feature their untimely deaths as well as that of webmistress "Messy Stench."


[Green Light]No pictures of John Dokes this week. Only the time he almost killed Stan Lee.

Ten years ago, Dokes used to work for the Direct Sales department under Matt Ragone. At the Marvel summer picnic, which happened shortly after Dokes started with Marvel, they all headed out to a ranch for fun and games. The summer picnic was one of two events that Stan the Man came out to New York for (the other being the annual Christmas Party), and this one was no exception.

During the company softball game, which was a fairly competitive afrair, Stan ambled over and requested to pitch to a batter or two, and none of the staff had the cojones necessary to turn him down. Now, this was ten years ago, but Stan was still not exactly in game condition. His apparel certainly wasn't--plaid pants and a button down long sleeve dress shirt that made me sweat just to look at him. Well, Stan wound up for his first pitch--to none other than out man of the hour, Mr. John Dokes III,--and let er' rip.

Well Johnny let 'er rip as well--blasting a comebacker to the mound that knocked Stan from his perch and flattened the poor septugenarian. Immediately, what seemed like dozens of people rushed to Stan's side, where, other than some ripped pants and a bloody knee, nothing much was hurt besides his pride. Still, chants of "Fire the new guy!" reached a fever pitch till Stan himself dismissed it as being all in good fun. Stan also milked his injured status for some TLC from the quite-attractive ranch lifeguard personnel, asking if his injuries merited mouth-to-mouth, which, unfortunately for him, they didn't.


[Yellow Light]Tomm Coker, artist of "Blood & Water" had to pull off "Blood & Water 2" for a very good reason... he's writing and directing a major horror movie.

He's not the only one... inker Aaron Sowd has just optioned his first movie, too.


[Green Light]At the London Con, I understand Tony Lee has become the new PR guy for AP Comics. He decided to start by giving me some PR blurb.

"AP comics is going to be absolutely stellar in 2005. We've just updated our website, the comics are getting great reviews all over the states and our upcoming books are going to turn a lot of heads including the forthcoming announcement regarding a graphic novel version of a certain incredibly famous childrens book. And there's a couple of announcements to come..."

Odds are that's where his "Mythlands" series will end up next year. Previous "Mythlands" artist Paul Ridgon is working on a new project with Tony to follow "Starship Troopers."

And what with talk of Frazer Irving drawing an X-book for Tony, and even something with Mike Avon Oeming, he could have a busy year ahead.


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Be seeing you.

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