Welcome to the one hundred and fourth 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]This Saturday, I spent the afternoon in a church in Highgate, London, singing a hymn. It was a most peculiar hymn, to a god, it seemed, who had sneezed out the universe. This was an audio recording for "Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy."

From the novel, "The Restaurant At the End Of The Universe" by Douglas Adams;

"Many races believe that it was created by some sort of God, though the Jatravartid people of Viltvodle VI believe that the entire Universe was in fact sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure.

"The Jatravartids, who live in perpetual fear of the time they call The Coming of The Great White Handkerchief, are small blue creatures with more than fifty arms each, who are therefore unique in being the only race in history to have invented the aerosol deodorant before the wheel."

And so, in this ancient church of St Martins in Highgate, we sang to a church organ what sounded like a common Anglican dirge, voices screeching high and low. The first verse will appear in the movie, subsequently verses in the soundtrack.

Here's one of those later verses now, by Jody Talbot.

Through empty void and vacuum your mighty sneeze was blown

And from its far-flung remnant the universe was grown

Your cosmic phlegm and mucus became the stars above

And celestial droplets of saliva

Coalesced to form Jatravardidity

It took a fair few takes before the congregation stopped corpsing in every verse.

There have been fears expressed that a movie version, especially one created after Adams' death, would lose his spirit. From this hymn alone, presenting such a ludicrous explanation of the universe's beginning as a sombre, serious piece of religious liturgy, while simultaneously making the point that all religious explanations of the world are just as ludicrous, I think Adams' legacy is in safe hands.

I wonder what Capalert will make of this one.


[Green Light]Well, this week was abuzz with rumours about CrossGen laying off all its employees and filing for bankruptcy. But where did this gossip start?

I hear there was a going away party held for John Dell by Morry Hollowell, to which a number of CrossGen employees and ex-CrossGen employees attended, only for the awful truth to be revealed.

And with the story out there, on late Friday afternoon, Mark Alessi brought people into his office one by one and broke it to them officially, aside from a skeleton crew of administrative staff.

Clealry, it can't come as much of a surprise. CrossGen have been caught out deceiving employees about the nature of the business for quite some time now, and with investment constantly promised that never quite appeared (a bit like payments to staff and creators), it was getting to be a matter of time.

Despite an reinvigorating change to publishing, cutting back on under performing titles, starting new high profile and focused books, belief that CrossGen could continue exploit their rich library of work and build up from there, has been sadly misplaced. Still, it's a possibility if they get Chapter 11 (and don't get a judge who knocks them back down to Chapter 7)...

CrossGen still owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to creators and even more to other creditors.


[Green Light]Currently, there's a lot of Marvel art in the Dreamwave office. Pat Lee has been doing numerous covers for "X-Men Unlimited," and soon "Iron Man." But there's more to come.

I understand Pat Lee is being looked at by Marvel to become what Michael Turner is for DC. A source, able to be used on special projects and regular covers, with a guaranteed fanbase and retailer confidence behind him, yet not committing him to too much work.

With Udon snapping up Capcom licenses previously believed to have been awarded to Dreamwave, and "Transformers" still looking shaky, any port in a storm...


[Green Light]So why was Eric Stephenson so quickly replaced as a Comic Book Idol judge by fellow Image employee B Claymore? I understand Eric had to attend a court hearing for undeclared reasons...


I understand the new Alan Moore/Oscar Zarate graphic novel "The Battle" appears to be based on and around the painting "The Battle of San Romano."

Currently at the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, London, postcards of it are 50 pence each.


Old Web site submission guidelines never die. They just hang around on company servers waiting for some gossip columnist to link to them in an embarrassing fashion, when the company has declared it is no longer accepting unsolicited submissions.

Still, here they are. For now. 5, 4, 2...

Vertigo's Submission Guidelines


[Green Light]Hey folks! An unused Ultimate Fantastic Four cover by Bryan Hitch

Okay, that's just creepy.


[Yellow Light]Despite the prominence of creators to Marvel's "X-Men Reload" event, just how much say or sway do they have?

Joss Whedon already talked about the company's desire to move the X-Men back into more traditional costumes away from Grant Morrison's themes, and how he worked towards that. Hell, Marvel seems to be doing it's level best to walk away from Grant Morrison's plots by gutting them like a fish within a couple of issues of most of the books.

Alan Davis gives an account of the creation of the current "Uncanny X-Men" costumes, and how most of them seemed to come down from above... and from the following quote, possibly from marketing!

"I gave Sage the hooded jacket to help me comply with the brief I have regarding the target audience."

Next... Wolverine with floor scuffing flares? Please, oh please...


[Yellow Light]I understand Andy Diggle and Leinil Yu have an upcoming project called "Hammerhead" from Wildstorm Signature.

I'm told it's "loads of action, bullets and dead yakuza!"


[Yellow Light]Robert Kirkman's "Marvel 2099" set of books for September is meant to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Marvel Knights, by looking at the characters in their 100th year. A Fisk as Daredevil, etc.

But, um, didn't Marvel Knights start in 1998? Six years ago this September with Quesada and Smith's Daredevil? Surely?


[Green Light]Jim Lee commented on last week's story that Judd Winick and Ian Churchill were commissioned to create a four issue "Superman" fill-in, if Jim Lee fell behind on "Superman."

"From the horse's mouth department:

"At the risk of jinxing myself...Superman will run 12 issues uninterrupted. It makes no sense whatsoever to break it up. I would not have signed on to do this series with Brian if I did not believe I could do 12 in a row.

"As far as deadlines: aside from the first issue--(which in general always seem to take 3 to 4 times the usual amount of time (nerves I think...))--I have met every monthly deadline given to me and am in the middle of the 12 issue run. During which, I have made deadlines for assorted Wizard covers, a Futurians splash for the Cockrum Tribute book, a charity piece for AIDSWALK, 20 Halle Berry Catwoman sketches, a PS2 cover for a Konami game (Contra), toy designs for more upcoming toys from DC Direct, various forewords, email interviews and whatnot and still have managed to find the time to attend a con/store signing a month (danke schoen Erlangen) and mangle Italian in una scuola locale. Ok, I think I protest too much.

"What did I have to give up? Just TV, movies, video games, posting on message boards (thanks, Rich), and weekday outings at the local pub (which is probably the only thing I truly miss!).

"Yes, there was a mini commissioned as our pal, Rich, noted but that was decided at the very beginning before we even started the book as a backup contingency. Shockers! The agreement Dan Didio and I have is if I screwup my deadlines, they can slot it in. I have no intention of screwing this up. Brian has written a kickass story (yes, it starts slowly) and it's been a pleasure getting to work with a writer of his caliber. A real joy in fact.

"Moreover I have to do these 12 on a monthly basis for me to be available for my next project...

"Man, in the time it took for me to write this defense, I could have drawn at least an arm and a leg, perhaps even an entire panel. Hopefully, some of you folks who crosspost to other boards can spread the word. Me, I'm getting back to the grind.

"I just thank God that I know how to work a computer :poke:



[Yellow Light]"Emma Frost" is cancelled with issue 18.

Surprising. I guess I'd banked on a comic starring underage Catholic schoolgirls to be a sure fire hit in this market.


[Green Light]Spot the difference!


[Green Light]Moon Knight was one of those most popular Epic pitches, along with Cloak And Dagger, Nick Fury and Doctor Strange - hell if all the people who pitched Dr Strange buy it, Marvel will have a hit on their hands.

But whoever gets the Moon Knight writing gig will have a surprise. Joe Quesada may well be drawing it.

And will be your boss.


[Green Light]For those who've never met Dez Skinn, here's a taster. Dez, talking about his times as editor and publisher of "Doctor Who Weekly," now "Doctor Who Magazine" from Marvel UK.


[Green Light]After mentioning Alan Moore and Steve Moore's "Technical Vocabularies" in last week's LITG, Top Shelf sold out a few hours after the column went up.

Clearly I am the new Warren Ellis.

Now, where's my web cam?


[Green Light]Apparently, J Lo wants to be Wonder Woman.

Honey, Rupert Everett wants to be Wonder Woman. Get in line!


[Green Light]I'll be at San Diego. Hooray!

And I'll be doing Live Lying In The Gutters sessions at San Diego... possibly.

Basically, if any attending retailer/dealer would like a crowd for a short half hour session, have fifty "Holed Ups" on hand for signing purposes. If you can provide them, I'll sign them and give my best Lying In the Gutters stories that have never seen print. Always a popular number at British conventions, now you can have it happening on your stall - with many plugging and footfall opportunities. You'll get a time/date/booth number plug in the column before the convention and probably signatures and sketches on your stock from whichever published British pros I can drag along with me.

Email me at rich.johnston@gmail.com if you'd like to take part, pick an hour of the con you'd like it to take part in, and make sure you've got at least fifty copies of Rich Johnston's Holed Up to sell to placate the hordes. Additional copies can be ordered from Diamond right now!


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:

  • mailto:rich.johnston@gmail.com
  • 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.

2019 Top Marvel Characters 45-41

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