Welcome to the one hundred and twelfth 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.


[Green Light]"A change in Marvel's management..."

Of late, I've become increasingly aware of a DC/Marvel rivalry that goes well beyond the barbs of competitors, into the personal level. Now, comic readers became used to Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada's slings and arrows against DC as part of the Bill And Joe's Excellent Adventure Out Of Bankruptcy for Marvel, and convention goers were very used to Bob Wayne's return volleys using his own distinctive brand of cutting sarcasm (hey, I thought only we Brits were allowed to do that).

But that didn't stop projects like "JLA/Avengers" - indeed Bob Wayne used that very project to highlight differences between Marvel and DC's publishing policies. But was that attitude to a project already signed off on indicative of something more than the usual banter?

There is certainly bad blood between individuals at both companies. When Bill Jemas was made President of Marvel, I understand Paul Levitz appealed to his bosses to get him fired, only to be rebuffed.

Bill and Joe made clear attacks against Paul Levitz using comic book websites and message boards to spread the animosity.

Paul Levitz refused a number of DC-exclusive creators to do any work, no matter how small, on Marvel's 9-11 charity projects.

I have also been made aware of high-placed recruitment assaults on DC's top people from Marvel of late - ones that DC had to use every clause in their employment contracts to repel.

But Bob Wayne made it clear that the New York Observer article seems to be a sticking point between the companies. Joe's comment in the article that stick out is "'What the fuck is DC anyway?' Mr. Quesada said, stoking the fires. 'They'd be better off calling it AOL Comics. At least people know what AOL is. I mean, they have Batman and Superman, and they don't know what to do with them. That's like being a porn star with the biggest dick and you can't get it up. What the fuck?'" is probably the paragraph in question. And, indeed it was the limp dick comment that seemed to get Paul's goat more than anything.

I understand Bob Wayne has been seen as the man who's kept this particular feud going, and is definitely the target of Marvel's ire. I have never heard Bob Wayne talked about so harshly and openly by Marvel's staff as he was in San Diego and he's regarded as Paul Levitz's Rottweiler.

The Bendis Panel took this to new heights, by pulling much of this outinto the open. And it gave Bob Wayne the opportunity to swing by andopen up the specifics of the story.

And an interesting panel it was, too. And some have been summarising it as Bob Wayne, an officer of DC coming to a creator's panel as a representative of DC, to ask for the firing of the officer of his main competitor.

Despite what that means legally, and what position Warner Brothers may take on that, it's asking for a man with a family to support to be fired, in order that a silly comic book be published.

The New York Observer article quote is three years old and Joe, though clearly intending to insult the company, cited no DC employee by name. Currently DC have decided they know what to do with Batman and Superman - hiring name talent on the titles to gain attention, and spinning off an Ultimate-style imprint (more on that later).

Bob Wayne also used the opportunity to make cheap shots against Bendis using Micah Wright's name. Bendis twisted that back, stating that Wright was Wayne's employee.

Coincidentally, before Micah's true history was revealed, I understand Bob Wayne had a big problem when Micah Wright also publicly brought a DC publishing matter into the open by drumming up Amazon-buying support for the cancelled Stormwatch trade. Again, while when done privately this is the norm, on a public platform, Wayne's often been much more restrained.

And I'm told that certain DC employees are rather annoyed by how this has all played out by DC. Bob Schreck for one.

Brian Bendis may be frustrated, he may genuinely want to see this project come to fruition, he may genuinely believe this the only way to get this project made. But history with other creators should have taught him differently. Bendis should have known that bringing this project out into the open, by talking about a private phone call he'd had with Paul Levitz on this matter, will guarantee it will definitely not happening in the near future.

DC don't take kindly to being manipulated openly, and for their publishing decisions to be made open fodder - I should know. Given this kind of exposure, they dig their heels in. This will only harden their current decision and make them even less malleable on the issue. Bendis has committed the sin that John Layman, Micah Wright and Mark Millar made before him, and he should have known the consequences.

Any publicity this brings, will be just that. Publicity. DC seen as the bad guys, Brian and Marvel seen as the good guys and Bendis seen as the writer everyone wants to talk about.

Look, it's worked.

UPDATE: Bendis continues to explain himself here and we have a bit of a back and forth...


[Green Light]In Chicago last year, I remember seeing previews to Marvel's "15-Love" by Andi Watson. That was before the fall of Jemas and Marvel's decision they didn't want to print teen romance tennis comics.

Shame television companies aren't so blinkered...


[Green Light]Talking of Micah, a little mole at DC decided to make me a very nice present and share with me scripts to "Stormwatch" 24 and "Vigilante" 1, written by Micah Wright. So for those who'd like to see how "Stormwatch" ended and how "Vigilante" would have begun, click here and here.

I've no idea if these are the final drafts, but they look pretty authentic.


[Red Light]Some San Diego gossip was even too hot to print.

Which major comics company procured hard drugs for a staff member?

Which creator screamed "faggot" at someone at a party over their haircut?

What senior comic editor walked up to a bunch of pros in the Hyatt bar, stopped for a moment, and said "I'm sorry, I'm completely stoned" then ran away?

Which comic creator complained at not being able to get a photo of "Larry" Wachowski's breasts?

Which artist left the con early every afternoon and spent most every evening at cheap strip bars?

That last one may have more than one answer...


[Green Light]In the light of access to pages of "The Last Straw Man" being restricted after undue attention from this column, artist Brett Weldele has relocated them here.

There is still no firm news on when the book will be solicited through Image.


[Green Light]The Jim Lee/Art Adams "Batman And Robin" comic discussed the other week will be the first title in DC's response to Marvel's Ultimate line. Look for the next issue of Wizard to have the full exclusive on the line and all it entails.


[Yellow Light]Gutterati Texas Sleeper writes with a well sourced titbit... turns out that the possible "New Warriors" series Marvel are considering may come from the hands of Zeb Wells and Skottie Young...


[Yellow Light]Yes, yes, "Thor" will be cancelled. But only so they can relaunch it with a big creator team a few months down the line, after all the fans have built up a clamour for the title.


[Yellow Light]The new Dodson design for Venom is quite a deliberate shift on Marvel's part - if the character appears in Spider-Man 3, which is a strong possibility, it's intended he'll resemble the Dodson version rather than the classic creation.


[Green Light]Liam Sharp is trying to get Dark Horse to consider him for Conan.

I think Lying In The Gutters should give him a helping hand...

Liam is also drawing a short barbarian/horror story written by Steve Niles for the "Man Tor Gems" anthology previously mentioned in this very column.


[Green Light]I understand the "Red Star" creative team are taking a hiatus in the wake of the comics market continuing to collapse (unless you're a top twenty book or manga). Right now, the book may continue in an annual trade format, but not in the single issues we've seen it in recently.



[Green Light]Warren is on the set of the Global Frequency TV show. He's having agreat time.

This is his chair.

Doesn't say whether he's wearing slippers or not.


[Green Light]Fans of Joe Kelly and Duncan Rouleau's "M Rex" series? It appears the title will be collected in a trade, which will include the unpublished issues.

Rouleau also has a new graphic novel called "The Nightmarist," coming out at the beginning of next year, that's already been tied up by Plus Picture and Paramount. He'll probably be doing some Spider-Man soon too...


[Green Light]A week ago, Dave Gibbons received a copy of the "Justice League Unlimited" episode "The Man Who Has Everything."

He told me, "I really enjoyed it. I thought the adaptation and compression of the material was very well handled. The variances from the original made sense and the dream Krypton actually exploding was an inspired idea (as with the matching gun-flash in Batman's fantasy). The direct quotes from Alan's script and my art were particularly satisfying and I loved seeing the pictures actually move!"

Well there's something I missed from San Diego.

We know Warren Ellis is writing an upcoming episode of "Justice League Unlimited" (featuring the Atom), but until now I didn't know Gail Simone (Green Arrow/Black Canary, Huntress/Question double date), Darwyn Cooke or Ron Zimmerman were also writing them. Must have missed that memo.


[Green Light]Rob Liefeld is one of the more dedicated creators at conventions these days.

Oh sure, the books still take an age to come out, but every con I've seen him at, he spends most of the day doing sketches for free, of a detail and quality that few others reach in the same scenario.

It's always a pleasure to watch him draw and entertain the fans. And it stands out in comparison with his peers.

But where, oh where is my "Bloodsport?" Mark Millar and Rob Liefeld's collision between "Youngblood" and "Battle Royale" still remains but one copy on the shelf... albeit in a variety of covers.

I am aggrieved that Augie gets mentioned in "Savage Dragon," but Lying In Gutters has to wait and wait for its "Youngblood" debut. Originally guaranteed for November 2002, then for last year's Wizard World Texas, then for San Diego, and finally scheduled by JimmyJay for Chicago, nothing but previews were to be seen.

They should be ready in time for Diamond distribution this winter though. We hope.

No sign of Kirkman's "Youngblood Imperial" 0 either, which was intended for San Diego and saw Marat Michaels having to rush issue 1 to get it out there in time instead.

As for "X-Force," some people at Chicago saw a very strong similarity between the pages of the second issue being previewed and those for the "Cable: First Contact" mini-series that was aborted, from five years ago...

Waste not, want not!


[Green Light]Chicago saw Image Publisher Erik Larsen's "Savage Dragon" #116 debut, ahead of stores getting copies, three weeks after the mega-sized 115 came out (which co-starred Augie De Blieck). Larsen has 2 issues of Dragon in the bag - some writer/artists heading up other companies may take note. The booth was most noted for launching Dragon as a candidate for President, and a poster of an upcoming issue is probably the first Image comic to show full frontal Bush on the cover.

No, I promise you, I didn't write that gag.


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!

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Be seeing you.

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