Welcome to the ninety-seventh 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.


[Yellow Light]"Standing in Panama City in 1989 on the roof of a six-story apartment building and looking out over a burned-out ruin the size of a medium-sized American town, I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity: everything I had been told while growing up was a pack of lies" - Micah Wright, from his introduction to "You Back The Attack."

My name is Rich Johnston and I've just come back from fighting in the second Gulf War. Ooh, it's hell down there I tell you. Sand and guns and things. No, really. And that gives me the justification to say that all of you should go and buy a copy of Holed Up from your local comic shop. It's the patriotic thing to do.

The comic industry is full of liars. Many get the euphemism of "exaggerators." But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby can't both be right. There's a certain individual working in the minor league in comics who has used a story about a fictitious Gladiator mini-series for Marvel to get free admission to conventions. Editors lie to creators about available projects, likelihood of success and possibilities of advancement. Creators lie to editors about when they'll have their work in. Publicity people lie to the press. The press lies to their readers. Everyone's CV's seem to exaggerate their contribution to comics - from inventing the graphic novel to originating a tiny plot point that reinvented the comics industry. Some even believe their own hype, or create a story only so they can deny it when it's put to them. And the amount of company executives who have just out-and-out lied or obsfucated to my face... well...

However, none of them have, to my knowledge, invented a military history as a justification to their right to present certain views and ideas, as well as a hook to get the press and public interested in their work. And then continued to propogate it at every opportunity, defend it. I mean, Micah Wright makes Mark Millar look like a lightweight.

It wasn't that long ago I took at pop at it with Micah, going through his military records, and the allegations of various RangerWatch people. The best he could give me was that his real name wasn't 'Micah'. But I just couldn't believe he could publically create such a fiction in the entertainment industry then live it 24 hours. Stupid, stupid, stupid Richard.

His apology stands here. An (alleged, hell probably made-up, too) ex-girlfriendspeaks here. And the big thread on his forum stands here just as his biggest supporters start to flee.

If there was any chance to start with (which there wasn't), there's even less chance of DC publishing that third "Stormwatch" trade. The Ingram listing had already been taken down and the Amazon solicitation amended to be "indefinitely postponed."

And what future now "Vigilante?" Missing from this weekend's convention presentation, I'm told that this was a total coincidence, and that DC/Wildstorm hadn't a clue about the truth when preparing the presentation. When asked to comment, DC told me "No comment at this time; it took us entirely by surprise."

But it might be quite handy in retrospect.

And then there's always eBay.

But can Micah Wright's career surivive? Quite possibly. He hasn't been trading on his Ranger status on his comics work for a while now. The industry loves a good story, and hell, that's what this is. And in the world at large, Patrick O'Brian, writer of "Master And Commander" and inventor of his own life and military history managed to get away with it.


[Yellow Light]CrossGen's quitlist gets bigger and bigger.

Everyone knows Greg Land left on Tuesday. But he's not alone.

Matt Ryan quit to accompany Greg onto whatever his next project is, as has Tom Ryder.

Epting, Pelletier and Cheung will finish their current assignments -- if they're paid -- and then they're gone as well.

This means the only inhouse pencilers left will be Perkins, Cariello and Moline.

Randy Martin in production quit after getting in a shouting match with Mark Alessi that got quite... heated. Laura Martin quit her freelance colouring assignment on "The War." She's apparently still owed money as well.

The last couple of staff checks were still not paid in full. And one of the reasons they got what they did was that CrossGen found a few unpaid invoices against Diamond. And even though the staff numbers are dropping, they are not falling quicky enough to match the lack of books at the company now. People like Tom Ryder, Larry Molinar, Sumi Pak, and Dave Meikis have been mentioned as names for the chop.

I am still being told that in a few weeks there will be news that will turn this company around. But I've been told that for nine months now.


[Yellow Light]I hear the Compgate has claimed another DC employee. Unnamed as yet, the only clue I've been given is that the individual was working in the film library at DC and was caught selling comps on eBay.

On that note, the recently dismissed Lysa Hawkins is suing for wrongful dismissal. With the whole question of whether it's actually possible to be fired for selling items which were gifts from the company up in the air, some say she has quite a good case.


[Yellow Light]There are a number of reasons being given why the Eye Of The Storm books didn't make the splash they were intended to. Some see a lack of marketing. Others see a lack of understanding of the concepts. But when it comes down to it, Eye Of The Storm created mature superheroes for the Vertigo audience, not the Wildstorm audience. And Vertigo readers don't buy those anymore. Thoughtful, clever, intelligent, and some of my favourite books, nevertheless they didn't grab the possibilities with the same balls-out way that "Authority" volume 1 did, and Wanted is doing now.

Put it this way. Issue 2 of "Wanted" had the line from the protagonist "Can you believe I just raped an a-list celebrity and it didn't even make the news?". The Eye Of The Storm writers couldn't have written a line like that because DC wouldn't have published it. "Wanted" sells, sells more and sells out. Eye Of The Storm sits between two stools and is treated as such by the buying public.


[Green Light]Talking about "Wanted," the recent issue of Wizard had Mark Millar give a run down on who he'd like to see play the main characters in a movie of "Wanted." Funnily enough for Wesley Gibson, he cast Colin Farrell. As opposed to Eminem, who JG Jones was instructed to model Wesley on, and who Millar told his agent to tell the media had signed on to play the character in order to drum um some publicity for the comic (which worked) and helped make the actual film option happen.

So why choose Colin Farrell now? Well, Eminem's people are rather annoyed with Mark Millar right now, and are very aware of the media trickery he played using Eminem's stature to further his ends. And Millar doesn't want to push it.


[Green Light]And while we're on Wizard, check out the new cover. Hopefully all the fanboy's will be so taken with Halle that they'll fail to notice a certain Buffy and X-Men writer has been renamed for this issue.


[Red Light]With a Hasbro buyout of Dreamwave rumours circling, yet more revolve around Udon Studios sending a premptive proposal into Hasbro to take the "Transformers" comics license when it comes up for renegotiation this year.


[Green Light]Warren Ellis going to an American convention. First I thought this would have to be a Mr T. style operation, slip something in his milk, but no...

And he's going, of all places, to Dragon*Con. It's not yet known if Warren knows this is the comics convention that rose up from role-playing fan activity, and as a result full of the most interestingly dressed people. With swords, phasers, light sabres, Klingon foreheads, Sailor Moon costumes and skewing the obesity gradient even higher than San Diego.

He's going to be in hell. Everybody point and laugh.


[Green Light]Who are the hipsterest hipsters around? Well, photographer Stephanie Chernikowski knows, alongside Allen Ginsberg, Elvis Costello, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Ed Sanders (of the Fugs), it's... Grant Morrison.

Doing photo reference for Tim Bradstreet, it looks like.


[Green Light]Gutteratti Informer puts me on the right track about a couple of things. Steve Niles continues his big name horror comics. He's doing a "Dracula" book with Ashley Wood. And here's the cover...

Oh go on, why not an image from "Secret Skull" while we're at it too...


[Green Light]After walking off "The Walking Dead," Tony Moore's next project is has a similar theme. Called "Five Dead Men," this is a horror Western comic by Image's new marketing guy B Clay Moore. From Image, obviously.

That is all.


[Green Light]GirlAMatic.com, the female-centred online comic service has had an interesting time over Donna Barr's work of late. Author of such works as "Stinz" and "Desert Peach," Donna has found new spurts of productivity and revenue in online comics.

On her weblog www.wolffood.blogspot.com, Donna described her new GirlAmatic series "Paid Home" as "Full sets of teeth knocked out, and punishment and banishment, and beatings, and submission, and oral sex with sea serpents and mixed-race mermaids. And mermen. And blackmail and sexual compulsion and drowning and sexual power games and intentional hamstringing and tormenting cripples and... It's like Sex In The City in Black, with NO sense of humor. Girlamatic is gonna frickin' love it."

Editor Lea Hernandez was a little freaked. It seems their explicitness had never gone beyond plain nudity and "Paid Home" looked like going that way. She asked Donna to put up a Warning page before viewers saw the comic in question.

Donna wasn't happy with that and moved her whole inventory to rival online comics site, ModernTales.com. In later blog entries she has decried "people with kids want the whole world to be safe for them" by locking them up and suggesting that by having children, Lea was overpopulating the planet.

My favourite line? "Just because I have a twat, doesn't mean I'm going to be their paid baby-sitter."

No wonder Donna referred to herself as GirlAMatic.com's "Company Doberman"


[Yellow Light]WonderCon rumours abound over the "I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League" series. Yes, they go to hell, not to get Guy Gardner but for Captain Atom. And that Guy will be going along, with G'Nort. Look for Dr. Light, Oberon and Mr. Miracle to be making brief appearences.

Keith Giffen writes: "Gotta love the fans. Captain Atom? Not even in the series. They go to Hell, yes, but it's a Booster foul up that leads to the reintroduction of Ice.

"Why use Captain Atom when Powergirl's so much more pleasant to look at?"


[Green Light]More from Adrian Brown's Just One Page: British Characters project for the upcoming Bristol convention.

Sandman by aristides iliopoulos

the back of a certain Jack Staff statue

and his front

(Photographer Patrick Lentz)

and a look back at St Swithin's Day

And almost in response, "Why anthology Comics Don't Work by Todd Allen fellow.


[Green Light]Eastern Europe screwed my timetable a tad. But look for J Scott Campbell this Wednesday at Dynamic Forces.


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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