Welcome to the ninety-eighth 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.
Micah Wright is no longer the writer of the new "Vigilante" title. The comic was intended to spin off Jim Lee's run on "Superman" as part of a line nicknamed "Superstorm" -a number of DC titles created by Wildstorm, a line that's been much rumoured for two years now.
With the creative team named as Micah Wright and Carlos D'anda, even before the recent furore over Micah Wright's faked military history, I understand there was internal concern at DC concerning the direction and tone of the title. The book had the central character eschewing taking down street criminals or organized crime, but blowing away what he saw as corporate criminals. Vigilante was to have been acting as a lethal enforcer against the most heinous thieves of all - those in the suits and ties.
However DC types, after approving this scenario, began to get nervous when the pages came in. There was internal debate about the quality of the work. And last week's revelations over Micah's faked military history kicked it up a notch. . Which has made it far easier for DC to drop Micah.
I understand DC were exploring if they can bring another writer on to redub and regig Carlos' art from Micah's original script, but now it appears they'll be starting again from scratch with a different writer.
Though DC deny any official or even unofficial line on Wright, I have heard from DC freelancers that their editors told them they'd been told not to hire Micah Wright for any project, effectively blacklisting him from the entire company. It's a sensitive time for DC right now - especially with one DC employee joining the National Guard in Iraq. But in a company that has brushed far worse than offensive lies under the carpet, this sticks in the throat somewhat.
Shame. Despite his offensive, manipulative and damaging lies, Wright can really write this kind of thing. I read Wright's second "Stormwatch" TPB on the bus this week. Fantastic book, far better than Wildstorm's previous military superhero work (even with the sporadic dodgy Portacio art) and it ends in a cliffhanger. Damn. Better hit those back issue bins for the rest, I suppose...
Further to last week's report on CrossGen losing employees like a sieve, I hear about considerable downsizing rumours at Tampa.
I understand that CrossGen may be reducing its operations to concentrate solely on its Bridges program, an aspect of the company that has demonstrably proved profitable, exploiting CrossGen's library within the education market.
I also understand that several CrossGen employees and ex-employees have lost their homes, having to foreclose after non-payment or heavily reduced payments. Almost everyone who has left has been owed money, but have decided to cut their losses and move on.
SO LONG, SOJOURN
LITG had previously printed that the CrossGen fantasy series "Sojourn" would be ending early. But not this early! Before Ian Edginton jumped off, he was asked--with Greg Land moving on to launch a new title--to build up to a big finale at the end of the year with final issue 41. Edginton subsequently, for a variety of reasons that he discussed in Waiting For Tommy, quit the company and a new creative team was secured to wrap up the series. But despite Previews listing new issues and the latest catalogue announcing the start of a new creative team, I understand that there was a last minute decision made to end the series with issue 34 (which ended with a confusing "To Be Continued?" sign-off), that subsequent issues have been cancelled, and that readers will be left with an unresolved cliffhanger ending.
Josh Middleton, king of the crotch shot, has learnt a fair bit in the last few years.
Fired from CrossGen for mouthing off against the company using a pseudonym (though it now looks like he got a break there), Middleton's skill as a comic artist has been appreciated by many. His "Sky Between Branches" preview for Com.X got a lot of industry bigwigs talking and it was Joe Quesada who grabbed him with an exclusive contract for his "NYX" series.
So talking about his problems with Marvel on the Com.X forum he gave a very guarded account indeed. He wrote:
"As some of you are aware, my name is no longer in the solicitation as artist for future 'NYX' issues. I owe you fine folks a bit of an explanation, so here it is and some change:
"First off, I thank you all for supporting my work on the book, but issue 4 is indeed my last. My decision to exit the book at this point, two issues shy of the originally planned six (I was assigned the first arc), is a combination of unforeseen conflicts, poor planning, and simple lack of production.
"To do good work takes time, and most importantly, careful planning. Good work is never the product of wishful thinking, nor are good working relationships. When goals are set and relationships and schedules are built around those mutually agreed upon goals, it is important for all parties involved to honor their commitments from the outset to the best of their abilities. When things go awry, honest assessment and full disclosure is imperative in keeping everyone united in finding a realistic solution to whatever has thrown the ship off course. Denial and that damnable wishful thinking cause immeasurable damage to a relationship built on trust. When you're chasing the carrot, you inevitably get the stick.
"With this in mind, I felt it was best that I end my involvement on NYX to hopefully facilitate the achievement of the decidedly different goals of Marvel and myself. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I was provided with and the support I received while working on the title.
"There are many unforeseen obstacles to overcome in publishing as in life and blame could hardly be found in having to change the rules of the game to accommodate such events. It is only irritating when a train clearly destined for derailment is knowingly and continually boarded at the station, even when announcements of the inevitable are repeatedly being made.
"In the end, I will spare the details as to how Marvel could have done better in assisting this Prima Donna in achieving artistic excellence, and will simply say that it was my own lack of enthusiasm which ultimately led to my demise as interior artist. In my heart, I know that one must believe in what they are doing or the work will suffer immensely, if it is completed at all. I tend to think I am especially sensitive in this area, and though I try to keep things in perspective, if content or circumstance prevent me from properly engaging my heart, the work is over before it begins (though admittedly I may have manufactured a means to forgive myself too easily with this sentiment).
"If indeed it does speak to my lack of professionalism or my inexperience as a comic artist, or simply my arrogance, I have still managed to somehow forgive myself for quitting a game I could never win, and in many ways, had no desire to play in the first place. I sincerely hope that fans of my work on 'NYX' will forgive me, too, and that I can hopefully win their attention once more on whatever is next."
Talk about skating around the point!
Rumours that delays were down to Craig Kyle, creator of the X-23 character, upset by her portrayal as a street prostitute in "NYX," have been summarily dismissed by Marvel, who state that Kyle was very pleased by her use. Nevertheless Middleton seems to believe that the many delays on the title were not just down to him - though people who have patiently waited for "Sky Between Branches" to continue may be cynical about that. Something, however, seems to caused Middleton to be disillusioned with the project.
Middleton continued, addressing Mike Wieringo's comments about overcoming the obstacles of the industry in general.
"I believe I will arrive eventually, and hopefully in the company of publishers and fellow creators who understand, as you certainly do, that the long term returns on art with integrity and vision will be far greater than any short term gains to be made in cranking out passionless material to fill the shelf space of equally passionless retail outlets, all published by deeply flawed and conflicted publishing machines. We need not resign ourselves as creators to believing that it is art or commerce. It simply isn't so, as so many great and commercially successful works of art have shown in the past. I am not going to fall prey to what corporate greed would have me believe.
"The difficulty lies in finding a means to defeat the giant, so to speak, by producing good work while still making a living in the current climate. I believe it can be done; in fact, it has been done throughout history, and what better time than now for the big take over of content and quality, and creator vision, over Wal-mart minded corporate asskissers. They have stoked this fire enough with their claims that we cannot have it both ways. I may as well put it to good use. Doing so may help enact, or at least contribute to, an industry-wide climate change that would open the floodgates of imagination and inspire a new generation of creators. It will take focus and real commitment, a concerted effort to break the cycle. It is a measurable challenge, but I believe it will happen, in fact it must, just as I believe there is an army of imaginative individuals out there starved for material that might stir up their passion, and a new generation primed for a renaissance of illustrated storytelling.
"That is the audience I hope to reach and I am confident in their number as I am a member of that audience myself. I no longer intend to indulge the sado-masochistic fantasies of a frustrated male adolescent mindset, preferring to instead uplift and hopefully inspire to look beyond what is to what could be. We do not have to settle. I am going to do everything I can, while I can, to not settle.
"I often find myself thinking about Disney, or how an empire built on passion and a deep commitment to creative vision has fallen to such an extent that their very own CEO has proclaimed the death of animation. Someone ought to inform Miyazaki.
"If animation is dead, they killed it (as if any one entity could forever hold down creative spirit!). With barely an audible clang of a poorly drawn cowbell, the future of fine animated art was put out to pasture with 'Home on the Range,' this according to the very people who themselves hold the resources to produce some of the finest, evocative, moving images imaginable and had often done so before discovering the miracles of subcontracted Korean animation houses.
"I draw this analogy just as I hear the rumor mill spilling talk of dramatically reduced rates for colorists and the like within the comic industry as Marvel has found a more economically viable option in distant color studios as well. Would anyone buy a ticket for the Titanic at any price if they could see the iceberg from the dock?
"Clearly, I may have my head in the clouds with all this talk of beating the machine, but it just might be that that is what they would have me believe. I'm not going down that easily!"
Middleton told me, "The reasons 'NYX' took so long to get off the ground have little if anything to do with Mr. Kyle (for a creator to have so much power!). I believe the difficulties were merely in getting it written at all.
"All of my babbling tends to make the reality of the situation seem far more dramatic or exciting than it really is, as your important work will surely do as well. The truth of the matter is no one is pleased when a project does not properly come together or sustain, and a lot of energy can be lost when an artist is chomping at the bit for months on end just to enter the race. This does not mean that the powers that be can always make things right, but it means an awful lot when they are proactive in attempting to resolve problems or in utilizing creative energy. My comments were meant to reflect a general impression of the industry's inclination toward wishful thinking and the damage that it can do to relationships and shipping schedules. For however inarticulate my self-indulgent rant was, I believe I made it clear by the end that it includes every aspect of the industry, including artists, and blame can not be placed on any one party's shoulders. My mother always said, 'It takes two to tango.'
"As for what I am doing next, there are no official plans in place as of yet."
But Middleton is still under his exclusive contract with Marvel and David Mack has stated that he expects Middleton will be working on Mack's next Marvel project. 'NYX' is currently being pencilled by Rob Teranishi.
Josh has also been having more fun here.
So Pat Broderick's last issue of "Micronauts" is issue #4. No new artist has been named. No solicitations for issue #5 of the series in this month's Previews. No comment from Devil's Due.
Is "Micronauts" dead? So I'm told...
FinFang and EttaCandy are two posters to the Comicon boards. EttaCandy was revelaed to be ex-DC production staffer Rick Taylor, Fin is believed to be an ex-DC marketing employee.
After reading an article on the latest separation and rebranding of internal Wildstorm imprints, Fin wrote, on the ludicrousness of the exercise, "Gotta find something for poor Richard Bruning to do, I s'pose...)"
EttaCandy's response was , simply, "snicker..."
Fin replied "...Snickered like someone who knows exactly what I mean!"
EttaCandy, "Oh I know exactly what you mean Fin.
"Richard couldn't have done them.
"It's rumored that in his contract he DOESN'T do design work.
"Wonder if that also explains why he didn't do a five day work week!"
Fin: "I should hope not -- there are much better Designers on staff who aren't granted the perks of company-sponsored freelance work. No, these days he's just micro-managing others' design work, instead. (But then, that's practically a spectator sport at DC.)
"But mostly we all wonder what the Creative Director actually does, when he's not spouting off Marketing buzzwords."
Etta concluded "Oh that's right.
"That's one other thing I forgot to mention.
"If you make more than 100k at DC you occupy your time:
"A) Micro managing others and taking credit for their work.
"B) Attending meetings
"C) 'Working From Home'
"D) Spending valuable company time doing IMPORTANT stuff. IE: coming down on people who sell there comps because they make under 35K a year."
One to follow I think. Richard Bruning is Senior Vice President of DC, Creative Director.
AVE IT ALL
Avatar, when they're not selling out of Rich Johnston's "Holed Up" issue 1 (issue 2 out in a few weeks, and boy is it timely...) have plenty of other fun stuff cooking in the pipeline.
And just because they publish my comic, doesn't mean I can't leak all their cool stuff behind their backs, does it?
Stargate, one of those books that flourishes on reorders rather than preorders (i.e. shops order low, sellout, order again, sell out again, keep on ordering, keep on selling etc) has a new series in August called "Stargate SG-1: Fall of Rome."
Cover and interiors by Jorge Correa, here's some starry prettiness.