Welcome to the one thousandth chapter in the latest volume of the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Over twenty 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.
Since I first brought my comics gossip column to ComicBookResources in 2002, it's gone from strength to strength and now, twenty years on, it's the leading source of all known news on the planet. After buying CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and Rupert Murdoch's 24 Hour TitSpunkWow! the entire population of the globe has been forced to share their propoganda with non-stop plugs for "Holed Up." More on that to come.
But I haven't forgotten the little people I encountered when starting the column. Mike Doran is employed as a cleaner in the peepshow basements of 24 Hour TitSpunkWow! and Bill Jemas is already making progress on the office floor as Junior Assistant researcher Into Comic Creators' Bedroom Habits.
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.
Onwards to the new!
Lilith Ellis, writer of "Watchmen III" and Wildstorm's new all-ages superhero series "Fuck Da Authority" took time out on her retina-display-log to kick off an attack against her publisher. Blasting DC for questioning her decision to make The Midnighter's sperm sentient, as part if her new "Jizz Wars" arc, Lilith called Paul Levitz "a cuntrag of the highest order" then proceeded to burn down DC Comics using her own personal satellite death ray.
Bob Wayne would only say "she's a bit of a tyke that one". Lilith was unavailable for comment (none that was coherent anyway) but her current beau Nick Locking told this reporter to fuck off out of it.
As the race of President of the USA starts to grind into gear, hopeful Democrat nominee Steve Geppi is finding it an upward battle, and his chances of standing against Republican incumbent Chelsea Clinton have been brought into question. This was made more acute when photos of Steve Geppi standing next to Mark Alessi were discovered. Alessi, current wherabouts unknown is best known for his sucessful attempt to divert the entire IRS funds for a year to prop up publisher CrossGen (although he was still unable to pay off all the freelancers).
Third party candidate Chuck Dixon was unavailable for comment.
THIS YEAR FOR MILLAR?
Mark Millar, from the ACTOR Retired Home For Bruised Comic Book Egos was insistent this week that Michael Gaiman will stand down from his position of President of DC Comics to make way for Dan Didio.
"The moment Didio's in charge, he'll give me and Hitchy that Superman book I've always talked about. And I'll put Mark Peyton on Jimmy Olsen, you just watch!"
Millar's statements were slightly brought into doubt by Dan Didio's death when he was strangled by someone believing him to be Hank Kingsley. But this didn't put off Millar.
"He's just pretending! He'll be back! And my day will come!"
Millar's comments were cut short by the seven foot male nurse who took him away for his bed bath.
HOLED UP - HONEST
A home has finally been found for the second issue of Rich Johnston's Holed Up. Originally to have been published by Avatar back in 2004 before Avatar's premises were destroyed by suicide bomber's incensed at the discount structure on some of Avatar's variant covers. Since then, the title has been turned down by every major and minor publisher in the known world, despite both issues two and three being fully pencilled and inked.
But now, a home has been found. Vanity Press have agreed to publish the comic, for the small fee of $1000.
What nostalgic news! And in that spirit, enjoy a blast from the past, a special archive edition of a Golden Oldie, the 100th Lying In The Gutters
"I hate it when Rich Johston gets our stuff and blabs it all over his column." - Joe Quesdada, X-Men Panel, Wizard Con Philadelphia.
Micah Wright has been fired off the last issue of "Stormwatch," 24. Wildstorm state that Micah delivered the script later than agreed, but I understand that the schedule was changed to facilitate the rewrite of the issue, to accommodate its ending. Only for Wildstorm to renege and demand the original deadline be stuck to.
Either way, it's an exceptional, nay unprecedented act, over one issue, especially for the final issue of the series.
This is directly down to internal feeling at DC and Wildstorm towards Micah after the fabrication of his history as a Ranger was exposed.
Whether issue 24 is published or not is debatable as well. The series wasn't a high seller for Wildstorm (but then, these days, what is?), and if it isn't resolicited then it will be returnable, making even more of a loss.
I understand that a number of Wildstorm writers were approached, but many had refused to be scab labour. However one has been chosen, but their identity kept secret for now.
You know, I'd do it...
Micah has confirmed much of what was printed in a recent LITG, about being booted off Vigilante and being blacklisted by DC. He writes much on his forum, including, "I've been told by two DC VP's that I will never -EVER- work for DC or any of its imprints EVER again in the future..."
He goes onto imply that last week's story was inspired by deliberate leaks from DC. For the record, neither DC nor Wildstorm were not the source of the LITG story two weeks ago. While I did contact people at DC during the investigation, the initial emails that gave me the initial story and context were not from those sources.
IRON MAN, IRON MAN, DOES WHATEVER AN IRON CAN.
The artist on Warren Ellis' Iron Man is Adi Granov (just look how he highlights the words Iron Man on his Web site). Adi has recently been wowing them with his Iron Man covers.
It's to be a six-issue mini-series, outside the regular series, in the Secret War format.
So, what's the word from WizardWorld on Icon Comics, currently only sporting "Powers" and "Kabuki?" Could it be, finally, Josh Middleton's "Sky Between Branches?" Looks like it. And whatever project he was working with David Mack on failed to get greenlit.
I hear Neil Gaiman's got an Icon book in the offing as well.
Also look out for an "Ultimate Captain America" limited series from Mark Millar. With art by... Sarah Michelle Gellar. Okay, no. But someone with the same initials...
ANOTHER SECRET FROM SMALLVILLE
So what other DC secrets does "Smallville" hide?
Could it be that Plastic Man is hiding out, posing as Lana Lang's Talon?
You be the judge.
After TokyoPop launch their TV advertising campaign, it's time for Avatar Press to follow suit. I understand they will be arranging on-air promotions with the Sci-Fi Channel over their "Stargate" and related comics.
ORIGINAL ALAN MOORE
Avatar Press have become quite the ones for retrieving lost Alan Moore comics and reprinting them, as well as adapting other work into comic book form. And, as with the upcoming "Yuggoth Cultures" TPB, with 40-50 additional pages worth of Moore interviews, Moore essays, unseen art and more, they've shown a dedication to promoting the man unseen at other companies. And the quality of the Small Killings graphic novel reprint, exceeding that of the original seemed to hammer that home.
Next year, they're publishing their first new original Alan Moore graphic novel.
For some other original Alan Moore work, this interview has examples from Alan's family album. See the baby, toddler, teenage and young man Alan... and watch his hair explode!
A PREVIOUS VERSION OF THIS STORY...
Two people we asked you to keep an eye on - Lee "Budgie" Barnett and Alex De Campi.
Well Budgie's gone and got himself the lead story on "X-Men Unlimited" 4 with Travel Foreman and Alex is doing an Image title through House Of Ra with Igor Kordey called "Smoke." She's also got a killer Fantomex pitch in at Marvel as we speak.
Look for another LITG talent scout report next week.
John Romita Jr. has kinda, almost, just about confirmed the story that he might be drawing "Black Panther" - one that he denied fairly recently right here.
THE TIME THAT IT TAKES TO MAKE A BABY
I love "American Splendor." I love Billy Bragg. I've only just discovered an exclusive Harvey Pekar strip about Billy Bragg that was to have run in Entertainment Weekly but was dropped after a previous controversial interview with Sean Penn backfired a little. And running a piece about another left-thinker was unthinkable.
Gods, Sean Penn and Billy Bragg being considered for having similar political views...
CHUCKING IN HIS TAKE
Last week's LITG coverage of the All-In-CrossGen-Grudge-Match continued.
"Lots of heat on my single line comment about Broken Frontier. And it's not fair to single them out. They're just part of the feeding frenzy that's roiling around CrossGen right now... Were people hurt by the problems we've had at CG? Sure they were. But those who maintain their own message boards here and there and are making a career of bashing CG are, I assure you, the ones who were least hurt of all... And several sites have offered regular features to CG ex-patriates that six months ago they would never have noticed. The proviso for that regular slot? Bash CrossGen and name names."
Back on that Broken Frontier thread (continuing to grow) the tone has grown slightly more conciliatory.
A few lines from Tony Bedard's post... "The big bad secret about working at CrossGen is...that it WASN'T a nightmare. Not even close. At least, not for me.
"I never 'drank the Kool-Aid' or whatever you want to call it when someone buys into every bit of hype and every rosy possibility... I've worked for a total of seven comics publishers, and guess what, folks? They're ALL messed up, one way or another...Hey, I still feel physically ill whenever I cross paths with my old Valiant boss, Bob Layton...
"I concentrated on what I could control: my own books... And folks, I was blessed with some creative collaborations that I may never again match in my career... We put out work which I am proud of, and we had a degree of creative control over the finished product that I may never again enjoy at other publisher...
"Furthermore, I had NOTHING going for me as a creator before Mark Waid convinced CrossGen to give me a chance as a writer. So I am definitely someone who benefited from the opportunities at CrossGen...
"I remain grateful for the opportunities I've gotten at CrossGen. I'm as mindful as anyone of the missed opportunities and bonehead decisions that have been made here. In fact, after warning the Boss about them so much, I got branded as a "Chicken Little." But for all that, the good still outweighs the bad. At least it does for me..."
In related news, I'm told to expect delays on "Negation War." I'm told that over concerns over payment, Paul Pelletier has put his work on that title on the backburner as the work that he gets from Marvel comes first
DEATH TO PUNK ROCK
This is the Chynna Clugston Major's DVD art for the upcoming slasher comedy film "Punk Rock Holocaust" to be released by Springman Records this summer.
Comic creators used to being burnt on big-name-other-media writers being late with their comics writing (Kevin Smith, early JMS) may be able to relax a little with Joss Whedon. He's currently writing "Astonishing X-Men" issue 4. So, not exactly racing ahead, but so far, it should be fairly on time.
EASY TO DIGEST
Away from the prying media-hungry eyes of the direct market, Marvel have been trying out the non-direct market digest that failed them with Marvel Knights previously.
Popular across Europe, the idea of taking a small run of Marvel comics and putting them out in a digest format is being revisited with the Marvel Age titles. Even the Ultimate line is getting a clean up job, anything remotely connected to sex has been cut from the books, then repackaged as a magazine containing six issues for $5.99.
Look for them in Wal-Mart and Target, by the kids titles and colouring books.
Wilson Tortosa was meant to attend the Motor City Comics Convention this month but was denied entry to the USA by Immigration, held in detention, then sent packing back to the Philippines.
Working with Alex Ross on "Battle Of The Planets," and currently on "Tomb Raider" for Top Cow, Tortosa was given a Visa by the US Embassy back in the Philippines, but was nervous about flying to the USA for the first time, despite his friends and Americans' assurances.
What a first impression he must have got.
Les Humanoides are to collect and publish the seminal "Omaha The Cat Dancer." Lost in disagreement after the split of Reed Waller and Kate Worley, the situation seems to have changed.
There's hope for a sizable amount of new material in the volume, but Kate's cancer relapse is unlikely to make that possible.
Follow Kate's condition and Omaha and Reed's blog.
Steve Lightle is working on a project known as "Legion Outpost." No more details!
WELL, THEY WERE SUCH AN OBVIOUS TARGET
The recently-announced "X-Force" trade paperback, reprinting Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza's earlier run, may have a slight problem. Namely the issue that destroys the World Trade Centre, with images that look very familiar.
Liefeld's history with Marvel has been very interesting of late. Earlier differences between the two over ten years ago revolved around Liefeld's use of characters deemed as being similar to Marvel's in advertising for a new title, Marvel characters appearing in a Liefeld sketchbook and Cable and Shaft appearing together on a Wizard cover.
Well, Arcade are publishing a new Sketchbook, which publisher Jimmy Jay is touting as featuring the first appearance of new X-Force characters!
Let's hope the relationship is a bit better these days.
Sketch Magazine has solicited a CrossGen special, a look at the everyday working of the Bullpen system there.
It describes the issue as "Take an inside look at the CrossGen studio system and see how having writer, penciler, inker, and colorist work in the same studio can improve the total package!"
It's just possible they might have missed the boat on this one.
Could be worth looking at it as a historical document I suppose.
JUST ONE LAST MENTION
LITG has been plugging the charity project "Just One Page" for a few weeks now with some nice advance art. Here's a couple of stonkers to whet your appetite. Launched next weekend in Bristol.
John Constantines by Michael Karpas and Bobby Vala
More John Constntines by Jock
Tim Bisley from "Spaced" by Trevor Hairsine
A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS
So, two years into CBR, 100 columns in the bag, let's take a breather and read some comics.
I've been doing this column in some form or other for eleven years. In which time, there have been a lot of comics published. Here's a few of my absolute favourites from that time period, all of which I believe could do with a little more attention from you guys.
Surreal School Stories.
This illustrated prose magazine span off the amazing Sleaze Castle and Petra Etcetera comic book series. Ostensibly giving one of the stars, Jocasta Drabble, an 'origin' story as well as foreshadowing much that was to come, Surreal School Stories takes the format of girls' boarding school fiction more common in the seventies and eighties, with a very modern perspective.
Sleaze Castle and Petra Etcetera can be found in back issue bins of better comic shops. The CDROM of Surreal School Stories is £4 + 50p p&p from Terry Wiley, PO Box 382, Newcastle NE99 1LT, and a printed version of the complete volume is being prepared.
By James Sturm and Guy Davis, this Marvel comic gave a very original retelling to the Fantastic Four origin story. Creating four individuals who would inspire Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create the FF, Sturm tells a much more human tale of hard living, inspiration, aspiration and failure.
This Marvel book is included in this list, although it received considerable publicity when first published - but the wrong kind. "Unstable Molecules" had an initially less-than-stellar reception when serialised, much of which was down to the misleading "hoax" promotional material, portraying it as the real story behind the FF. While that is a conceit of the book, making the lie into the marketing led to people being upset they were mislead.
The TPB of "Unstable Molecules" can be ordered from Marvel by your local comic shop. They may even have some left... this was not a big seller. It is, however, my favourite Marvel comic to date.
Fred The Clown
By Roger Langridge, "Fred The Clown" is one of the major comic creations of the last decade, alongside Vic Reeves, "The Day Today," "The Office" and "Spaced." Utterly original, Fred lives in a world he doesn't understand, that takes strange surreal leaps yet stays grounded in reality, and where the clown is the everyman that no one wants to be. Each panel is created in painstaking detail, and Langridge's attention to such outdoes Dave Sim and Gerhard.
These pages are from issue 5, recently published from Hotel Fred Press. More can be found at www.hotelfred.com.
Shane Simmons' masterpiece and proof positive that you don't have to be a master draughtsman to make comics, you just need a ruler. With hundreds of panels a page and a cast of thousands denoted by tiny dots in that panel, this comic-book-as-seen-from-the-distance breaks the form down (never has deconstruction gone so far before or since) and then proceeds to tell one of the funniest epic family sagas of all time. An astonishing achievement, and no more so that it keeps the pace, the gags and the drama running throughout. A comic you definitely can't finish in five minutes.
Two issues of "Longshot Comics" were published by Slave Labor. There's even a hardback version of the first issue, rearranged at a different size to suit the German market, then an English version produced. Copies can be bought here.
Donna Barr's war-timed comedy drama sees the gay brother of Rommel lead a band of misfits in the Africa Korp. With a couple of misteps to start, "Desert Peach" soon found a stride that has escaped all other war comics. Blending humour and drama without sacrificing either, "Desert Peach" eschews easy answers or cod morality, to portray a story of duty and honour, of doing what you can in whatever situation you are in, and finding your true nature. Very poignant without being schmaltzy, Desert Peach is an odd mixture. It shouldn't work but it does.
Donna Barr's current work can be found at Modern Tales as can her "Stinz" series.
Doug TenNapel's science-fiction movie that wasn't but may well now be again. This is a Christian-evangelist themed doctrine that has a better chance of saving souls than any of Jack Chick's tracts. Telling a story about choice, posession, submission, mysticism, destiny and free will, "Creature Tech" tells a story of at a symbiotic relationship between a man and an alien, how he relates to those around him while contributing to a rip-roaring action-adventure plot above the skies and in men's minds. Astounding storytelling skills from the creator of "Earthworm Jim."
"Creature Tech" is available from Top Shelf Comix and your local shop. A new project from TenNapel, "Tommysaurus Rex" is expected later this year from Image.
The Spiral Cage
Al Davison's autobiographical tale of aspiring to more than he is given, as a young boy with spinal bifida refuses to have the stuffing knocked out of him by life, and find his own way. And it could all be terribly worthy and worth terribly if it wasn't for Al's sense of humour and general mastery of the form. Jumping from style to style, the book flows like none other showing off startling comic skills, yet retains the rawness and readiness of a self-published pamphlet.
"The Spiral Cage" was recently brought back into print by Active Images with an introduction by Alan Moore. A sequel, "Spiral Cage 2 - Scar Tissue" is in the pipeline.
I first came across Ilya's work in the long-gone Deadline magazine. It was one of those "oh... this is what comics can be like."
Imagine Eddie Campbell's "Alex," crossed with Michael Caine's "Alfie" with a little bit of "Trainspotting" and a chunk of "Love And Rockets." That's the story of Bic, his friends, their friends and a life lived on the edge. Except grim'n'grittiness is jettisoned in most part for the joys of close friendship with a group of your peers, the way you see the world and the way the world sees you. Makes you want to get on a bicycle and cycle through camden immediately.
"Skidmarks" is currently available from Active Images and sequels "End Of The Century Club" and "Timewarp" are no longer available unless you look really hard for them.
All of these deserve a place on your bookshelf. Seek them out.
NEXT WEEK: On Saturday, at the Bristol Comics Festival, I'm doing a Live-Ing In The Gutters panel. With star guests, comedy turns, swearing and uncomfortable moments, Live-Ing In The Gutters is always a popular panel, and we're coming straight out of Budgie and Dave Gibbons' Hypotheticals Panel. Should be a good one.
All the stories I haven't been able to print for some reason or other will get an airing (with legal assistance on hand) as well as an evisceration of what was Epic Comics (by people who were there for it) and loads more nonsense.
I'm there Friday till Sunday evening, staying at the Ramada, find me, mobile number below.
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:email@example.com (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.