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Welcome to the one hundred and first 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.

BEYOND CONVENTIONS

[Green Light]

Back from the Bristol Convention. I was meant to be doing one – panel, Lying In The Gutters. I ended up doing three – on the Pitch Fest judging panel and the official Marvel panel, apparently on the basis that I would know more about what Marvel were up to than the rest of the panellists. I can’t wait to hear Tony Lee explain that one to Joe Quesada.

A bunch of us took the cheapest mode of transport possible from London to Bristol, from megabus.co.uk – there is no cheaper way to travel without sticking your thumb out. Still, it meant more money to spend at the bar. Which, as usual, became the theme of the weekend.

And so geeks gathered from all across the UK, as well as grabbing a few Norweigans, Danes, Americans and Spaniards.The absence of a costume parade spared us the people dressed up as Lightning Lad, although we were grateful for those women who decide the best way to express themselves is through platform boots, leather and piercings. A toast to you all.

As usual I was taken aside into a corner many a time, not for some sodid sexual dalliance (not these days, I’m married, I’m good) to have a quiet word about which publisher had been screwing creators, which creator had been screwing their publisher, and to find out what I knew about certyain topics – I found myself having to explain a number of rumours to people who had just been affected by them and wondered why everyone seemed to know about it but them.

As usual, there were some fine quotes from the panels. Naturally the Hypotheticals and Lying In The Gutters panels are off limits, but in others, it was revealed that Bob Schreck eats his comp copies, and his wonderful Dalek-style utterance “Yes. I. Am. Looking. Forward. To. The. New. Movie. With. Catwomaaaan.” cracked up the hall. Scott Dunbier mentioned that he’s asked Dan Didio if Jim Lee could draw some Wildstorm comics for a change sometime. When describing the Waid/Kitson proposal as “one of the best proposals I’ve ever read for a series,” Bob Wayne also managed to engage the ire of Legion fans by saying that the series will add layers, not devaluing but adding to “what you liked about them when they were 2D superheroes”. The mutters of “2D? 2D? They were *never* 2D!” from people who were definitely *not* 2D were heard in the fan-huddled corners afterwards. David Hine explained a few teething troubles working for Marvel on “District X,” in that he asked for a guide to suitable tone from Marvel and received the Cage MAX series. Let’s say a few changes had to be made before “District X” then progressed. Mike Carey (“Ultimate Elektra“) then exchanged words they could or couldn’t use in Marvel books. “Carey couldn’t use ‘Damn’ or ‘God’, David could use ‘God’, but he couldn’t use ‘Jeez.'” Hine explained his desire to use mutation as an allegory for disability and Carey stated that “Ultimate Elektra” wouldn’t necessarily bear relation to the movie version, as he has an allergy to Ben Affleck and hasn’t seen the film in question. Bob Wayne also defended Chuck Austen’s work after a crowd member asked “Chuck Austen on JLA – is it really a good idea?” by saying Chuck’s work for DC is vastly superior to his work elsewhere, and even Mike Carlin likes Chuck’s ideas.

The lack of a Vertigo editor at the show for the first time in living memory was noted by a few – especially considering how many Vertigo creators use the con as a chance to pitch for new work, or get a face-to-face reading of the current state-of-play. However, that just left them more chances to corner Scott Dunbier and pitch him work at Wildstorm without looking disloyal.

Wayne also talked about the future of Grant Morrison Doom Patrol trade paperbacks. And the spectre of the Charles Atlas/Flex Mentallo case was summoned as usual. What differed this time is that Wayne stated that the likelihood of further trades would depend on sales, and the affect Flex Mentallo have may only be that Flex won’t be on the covers…

At the Vertigo Panel, when answering a question about more Sandman Presents material, Wayne asked the crowd how many people would like to see more Sandman Presents. A few hands were raised. Wayne asked who doesn’t want to see anymore Sandman Presents, and most hands went up, including most of the panel. Yup, that Vertigo editor absence did seem to make a difference.

But in general, the show was fairly restrained. No fights (apart from the football-related mini-riot in the Wetherspoon pub), very few explosions (apart from Craig McGill in Hypotheticals) and far less shagging than usual. Are we all losing our touch?

I entered the dealer and publisher rooms to be mugged by Top Shelf Comix who managed to offset their kind gesture of selling me a signed copy of “Mirror Of Love” for the unsigned price, by forcing me at the gunpoint of my hoarding nature to spend twenty quid on a small collection of form-experimenting poems called “Technical Vocabularies – Games For May” by Alan Moore and Steve Moore (still I’ve got one and you haven’t). Publishers APC Comics and House Of Ra put on the most impressive show.

The Awards night was fun – I ended up accepting the award for Best Online Strip for “The Matrix,” on the grounds that I had read them. If anyone involved from the Matrix contacts me, I’ll be happy to pass it on, otherwise I’m keeping it.

The National Comic Book Awards went as follows.

Graphic Novel – “Necronauts”

New Comic – “The Losers”

New Talent – Dan Reardon

Indie/Small Press Comic – “Solar Wind”

Film/TV – “X-Men 2”

Supporting Character – Chas (“Hellblazer”)

Character – Judge Dredd

Specialised Magazine/Website – “2000ADOnline”

Comic Shop – Page 45

Online Strip – “Matrix”

Comic Artist – Flint Henry

Comic Writer – Brian Bendis

Comic – “2000AD”

The prevelence of 2000AD in the winers and finallist lists may have something to do with the fact that ballot forms only appeared in print in 2000AD and the Magezine. And indeed, at one point, Dez Skinn found ourselves singing along to Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize” that accompanied one finallist rundown on teh big screen, namely “And we don’t know why… and we don’t know why…”

The Superman variant given out free to retailers may well pay for their whole convention. One was picked up early at Philadelphia and went for $1175… it seems a DC comp copy went astray. Look for more of these at Baltimore.

Chuck Austen’s porn comic books were a popular item being passed around Bristol – brings back memories this one. Let’s have a few scans.

Right, enough of that.

Finds of the weekend – “Commercial Suicide,” an anthology of clearly-unsuitable-for-any-publisher-but-Avatar strips from a fine collection of comics creators. “Dang!” from Top Shelf by Martin Cendreda, a kind of Chester Brown meets furry comics collection of strips that interweave with an enviable structure, “Deadman & Hyde,” a Men-In-British-Black comedy sci-fi series from Charaydis Comics by Adrian Kermode and Kieran McKeown, the “Just One Page” charity collection and another issue of “Strangehaven,” issue 16, by Gary Specer Millidge of Abiogenesis Press.

SEVEN BRIDES

[Green Light]

“Seven Soldiers” is an upcoming Grant-Morrison project for DC, seven mini-series, each telling a story featuring one of DC’s second-tier characters. The series are separate yet when read together in any order, will tell a far larger tale. I’m told Zatanna and The Atom are two of the featured characters. Look for that starting in January.

STORM OVER

[Green Light]

Scott Dunbier stated at Bristol that the last copy of “Stormwatch” has already been published.

Despite well-sourced rumours that Wildstorm were seeking a replacement writer for the last issue, it appears that 23 was the last issue, orders for the solicited final issue that Micah Wright was fired from will not be filled, and the current “Stormwatch” story will not be concluded. Again, an exception decision for DC, even considering the circumstances.

CURSED EARTH TWO, MAYBE?

[Green Light]

DC and Rebellion were meeting at Bristol to discuss more DC/2000 AD crossover possibilities. I do hope the Live-Ing In The Gutters-suggested Strontium Dog/Krypto proposal comes about. Flesh/Teen Titans, maybe not. I’m told no more Dredd/Batman though.

The future of those “Zenith” trade paperbacks embargoes in a warehouse may be grim, however…

ULTIMATE INITIALS

[Green Light]

The artist for Mark Millar’s “Ultimate Captain America” series is Steve McNiven.

MORRISON DANCING

[Green Light]

I hear that Grant Morrison will be writing “Superman,” but it’s a case of when. I understand he’s made it clear to DC that he’ll only write the book if Frank Quitely draws it. That might take some time. Nevertheless, it looks like it’s going to happen. In the meantime, Grant Morrison will be writing a JLA spinoff involving the Hyperclan.

DOG DAYS

[Green Light]

Bob Wayne stated at Bristol that scenes from the Krypto TV series will be ready to show for San Diego.

Good boy.

THREE’S THE CHARM

[Green Light]

On “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” Scott Dunbier stated a guarantee there would be no delays on the third series, and that Kevin O’Neill is well into it. He also gave a guaranteed no-Tom-Sawyer clause.

OUT OF FOCUS, OUT OF TOUCH

[Green Light]

I understand the DC In-Focus series “Touch” and “Fraction” are being cancelled as of issues #6.

SQUEAKING DOWN THE AISLE

[Yellow Light]

Despite an erroneous statement originating from a London retailer, that Grant Morrison would be present at the Bristol convention, Grant was actually flying to Mauritius to get married.

I know Bristol is meant to be the new Venice but it’s hardly the most romantic honeymoon spot in the world.

Congratulations Grant and Kristan!

QUICK! SOMEONE GET GREG HORN!

[Green Light]

Look, everyone, it’s Joe Quesada dancing!

Several years ago at Jimmy Palmiotti’s party, obviously though.

1602 AND A HALF

[Green Light]

Marvel UK being owned by Panini continues to cause issues. While the UK prints of Marvel’s trades have been most welcome (and occasionally more thorough than Marvel US’s versions), it now appears that next month Panini will be distributing a softcover version of “1602” through Red Route Distribution to the UK when only the more expensive hardcover version will be available to the USA.

MAN AND BOY

[Green Light]

Another popular visual from Bristol, were baby photos of Alan Moore, as well as those of the younger man. They can be seen here.

SIGIL SLIPS

[Yellow Light]

With Mark Alessi sending out cease-and-desist notices to certain ex-CG employees posting on message boards, I understand another three employees were let go recently, Larry Molinar (colourist), Roland Paris (inker), and Shirley Burdett (human resources). DC, Marvel, take note.

I was also shown evidence of some incredibly high quality “Meridian” and “Sigil” animations, 10-15 minute shorts used to pitch to HBO and the Sci-Fi channel. Sadly they were not picked up.

ANGEL OF THE NORTH

[Green Light]

“Northern Lights,” the cannabis-themed comedy anthology comic is to be relaunched after its tenth issue as “Wasted.” Featuring work form the likes of Bryan Talbot, Alan Grant, Mark Stafford, Frank Quitely and more, “Northern Lights” wants to expand its content from the evil weed, to a whole host of substances and lifestyles.

APPARAT CHICK AND APPARAT CHAP

[Green Light]

A couple of sketches from Warren Ellis’ Apparat line from Avatar have been passed my way….

FRANK IRONWINE by Carla Speed McNeil.

from ANGEL STOMP FUTURE by Juan Jose Ryp

SHADOWKIRK

[Yellow Light]

Robert Kirkman, the young new star of both Marvel and Image, is working on a new “Shadowhawk” comic book for Image.

AMERICAN LAW

[Yellow Light]

Laws still on the US statute book. Here’s a fun one.

Apparently, in California, it is illegal to require someone to purchase a horror comic book.

So all those people making other people buy horror comics… stop it this instance. And how do we define horror comic book, children?

“any book or booklet in which an account of the commission or attempted commission of the crime of arson, assault with caustic chemicals, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, kidnapping, mayhem, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or voluntary manslaughter is set forth by means of a series of five or more drawings or photographs in sequence, which are accompanied by either narrative writing or words represented as spoken by a pictured character, whether such narrative words appear in balloons, captions or on or immediately adjacent to the photograph or drawing.”

So that’s all of them then.

SPIRAL RACE

[Green Light]

Last week I mentioned “Spiral Cage” as one of my favourite underrated comics of all time, and that it had recently been reprinted.

The artist and writer, Al Davison, is currently working on “Spiral Cage 2.” He needs a publisher. Interested parties should get in touch though his Web site. Oni, Fantagraphics, AiT/Planet Lar, Slave Labor, Top Shelf, DC Vertigo, Marvel Icon, someone, take this and run with it.

On that point, “Fred The Clown,” also mentioned last week, is to be collected by Fantagraphics.

FOUND GIRLS

[Green Light]

The last pages of the “Lost Girls” volumes were finally scanned in last week. Expect publication early next year.

CASTING SHADOWS

[Green Light]

There’s a new “Shadowrun” comic line on the way. Or so I’m told.

DON’S LAST TRUMP

[Green Light]

At the funeral of the great British comics creator Don Lawrence, they played Eric Idle’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.” The pallbearers cracked up to the line “Life’s a piece of shit, when you look at it.”

THANKS, SQUIRE

[Green Light]

Page 22 of Esquire, a best-selling UK men’s magazine under their “most remarkable things in culture this month.” At No. 5 is Rich Johnston’s “Holed Up.” Hurrah!

Issue 2 out very soon…

TOMMY ROB

After an extended break, Waiting For Tommy, my interview column is back, and it’s the bad boy himself, Rob Liefeld, who’s got a lot to say. Click here for the full story.

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:

  • mailto:rich@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk (which often gets full, but it’ll reach me during the day)
  • 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.

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