Welcome to the ninety-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.
Last column's "Powers"/"Kabuki" revelations we're confirmed later in the week by, well, everyone. But what's behind the move from Image to Marvel?
Jim Valentino's absence may have made the move easier. Indeed, I understand Bendis made the call to Marvel immedaitely after Valentino was dismissed as Publisher of Image Central. Valentino was intrinsic to Bendis' position in the industry, publishing "Jinx," "Goldfish," "Torso" and "Fire" after his Caliber arrangements fell apart. Bendis felt he owed Jim Valentino a great deal of loyalty and though Marvel had been courting "Powers" before, he didn't move until then.
But it was not the reason being touted for the move. I understand, though I have been asked not to go into further details, that the decision was also down to unresolved legal matters between involved individuals over another project, not linked to "Powers." And that it has made current publishing situation for Brian Michael Bendis at Image untenable, though it took Valentino's departure for Bendis to act on it.
But also consider Michael Avon Oeming. Apparently, with his half-share in "Powers," he was chomping at the bit to move. If anything, Bendis slowed him down...
But what about the Icon imprint? How could Marvel reverse its policy on creator owned work so quickly?
Editorial at Marvel had been fighting for creator-owned work for a while, against the wishes of Avi Arad. Gui Kayro, Dan Buckley, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada all saw the benefits as a way to keep creators on board and exploit more of their creative directions. Marvel had to decline "Gray Area" and Millarworld because of Arad's fixed belief that creator-owned work diluted the ability of Marvel to benefit as a licensing company.
Avi Arad had expressed firm doubts about creator-owned comics, as that doesn't give Marvel anything concrete to sell to Hollywood, or dilutes the cashflow. Over at DC, their creator owned and creator participation deals give DC and Warner Brothers preferential treatment and a slice of multi-media money. But Avi didn't just want a slice, he wanted the whole portion. Even the previously short-lived creator-owned contracts gave away a bigger than usual chunk to Marvel of exploitation rights and control - even the option of firing the creator, as Steve Uy found out to his cost.
It took Brian Bendis' decision to take Marvel up on their offer for Arad to be convinced, as well as a united front from publishing. "Powers" and "Kabuki" both have movie deals in existence, so Marvel could only benefit vicariously. But it also means that Marvel don't have to go to the effort to sell the movie options to benefit from a lift in publishing sales. It's a small move, but a significant one. Avi will be watching it with keen interest,
But why Bendis?
Okay, bear these things in mind. Brian Michael Bendis is Marvel's most important creator right now, handling a number of books with immense skill. No one at Marvel is creating so many books of so high quality. It is in Marvel's best interest to keep him sweet. Whether that's employing his close associates on the Avengers books, or taking on "Powers" as a full creator-owned book when it can no longer be published happily at Image (and Kabuki as a job lot as well). Even "Alias" wasn't so much cancelled as relaunched as a new title. Marvel know exactly which side they're bread is buttered with Brian, and now they're going to put some strawberry preserve on top as well.
But there's more odd spinning going on.
Brian Bendis talks about ICON being Marvel's first truly creator-owned line, but Epic Comics in the eighties and nineties did the same, offering full creator-owned rights with work such as "Groo The Wanderer," "Alien Legion," "The One," "The Bozz Chronicles," "Sachs & Violens," "Stray Toasters," "Moonshadow," "Marshall Law" and much more. Even, at one point, colour "Cerebus." And do you think Dave Sim would sign a contract that didn't give him total and utter control?
Vertigo's creator-owned books, while not relinquishing editorial control, taking percentages of media exploitation and having a seriously heavy rights retention clause, is more open to creators to approach. However, they also make demands on creator-owned creators that they also do significant work on work-forhire books.
And Image Central take books directly from newcomers. Something ICON shows no signs of doing... hey, been there, done that, cancelled the anthology.
So as for being a step forward for creator rights, Icon seems a very exclusive club. Invitation only, very limited, it seems a reward for doing other high-profile Marvel company-owned work, and then only the top names. It's a perk for the work-for-hire creators, not a step forward for creator rights. It's two tier, it's favouritism, it's... well, 'apartheid' is a term already being used to describe it by some creators not yet invited to the party.
No problem with that, of course, Marvel's business, but when it's spun the other way, it deserves a little unspinning. And a number of Marvel creators are already tutting.
Mark Millar's fourth first-wave Millarworld project is expected to join Icon... that's if a higher bidder doesn't get it first.
If, of course, Marvel even go ahead and use ICON as a brand name. I certainly remember a fine comic, "Crab Allen" that came out of Icon Comics. And the publisher has already been in touch with Marvel...
My favourite take on the whole Powers/Kabuki sutuation has to be PVP creator's, Scott Kurtz. This was what he had to say.
"Holed Up" issue 1 from Avatar is shipping early. Scheduled to be published by Avatar Press in May, the first issue will ship on April the 21st to the US, the 22nd to the UK.
Take that, "Ultimates."
Not every retailer has ordered copies for the shelf - or even any at all. Next week, I'll be mentioning a few who have, but it's still not too late. If you want to see a copy when you pop into your shop this week, why not ask your retailer if he or she are getting any, and if not, ask if you can get an advance reorder with these numbers.
And remember to smile, say thank you and give them a little wink. It would make their day.
ONE DAY THERE WILL BE AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY STORY WHERE HITLER DIDN'T WIN THE WAR.
Brandon M. Easton, author of "Arkanium" from Dreamwave has adapted "The Man In The High Castle" by Phillip K. Dick as a screenplay, and has been described as a cross between "Brazil" and an alternate future Harry Turtledove novel where the Axis powers win WWII.
And Brandon seems to have managed to get a plug for thing in LITG by passing it through a friend, leaking me the story. Which, I have fallen for, hook, line and stinker.
However, I didn't manage to mention his TV pitch, "Embrace," nor that it's been described as a cross between "X-Files" and "100 Bullets."
NUMBER OF THE BID
Compgate details continue to flow through... the latest that Lysa Hawkins' eBay sales were exacerbated by selling not just her comp copies, but a valuable rare item given as a gift to DC staffers. And it's easy to trace exactly whose were being sold on eBay when they're signed and numbered.
Recently Lying In the Gutters reported on Chuck Gibson's inability to get paid by 88 MPH Studios for recent inking work on "Ghostbusters." LITG reported problems the company had had, but at the time, publisher Sebastian Clavet assured that this was a temporary blip.
It appears not. Chuck Gibson posted a string of broken promises and non-replied-to e-mails.
Clavet replied with a sarcastic missive that made Mark Alessi look like the icon of creator relations, saying "I had to resign as the president of the 'New-Neo-Nazi-Baby-Killer-Motherless-Assholes' of Canada because my reputation is forever destroyed per Chuck's comments." but that "Chuck will get his $875".
Didn't go over too well...
Gonzalo Martinez, star artist of a little Avatar series called "Holed Up," has another project on the go, and this time it's from his past! "Leather Jacket Guy, The Lafsville Adventures," a three part colour series coming out from Digital Webbing Presents.
If you like what you see in Holed Up, (out April the 21st remember!) you'll love "Leather Jacket Guy!"
ANOTHER BRICK OFF THE WALL
Lying In The Gutters has reported previously on the impressive artwork Mark Alessi has hanging on the CrossGen wall - and how they have loans secured against them.
I understand the Barry Windsor-Smith Conan work and a seven page Al Williamson/Frank Frazetta story are no longer on display and have been "claimed."
"Venom" is on the cancellation block at Marvel. Artist, Skottie Young, is developing a creator owned title with his Led Heavy artist group, as well as an album. Though if Marvel offer him a Generation X series, he's there.
Markisan, one rumour monger to another.
When you're doing an interview with a creator, and a creator says something very news worthy indeed, you put a link in your rumour column when you write it. Like this
In Markisan Naso and Tom O'Shea's interview with Chuck Austen, Austen confirmed the officially-denied rumour that Marvel have been toning down the books, especially "Captain America," in the light of new publishing concerns. That books are being redesigned for a younger audience. And that Joe Quesada's initially stated aim of "aim for an older audience and the younger audience will follow out of aspiration" is slipping.
Austen stated, on writing Captain America as a soldier, "I'm not sure. I mean, yes, I would love to do that, but the fact is - this is a tough one to answer. Basically, the situation is: Marvel's got new policies in place to make their stuff skew younger. A new 'Code,' if you will. They've described it as 'playing it safe' I think, elsewhere. I feel that precludes the kind of approach I was attempting. "
BETTER LIVING THROUGH NEW X-MEN
Paul O'Brien, my favourite comics reviewer, gave a full account of exactly what was wrong with the recent non-Morrison "New X-Men," and how Marvel didn't seem to have realised what actually happened at the end of Morrison's arc, or why.
"Honestly, you wonder whether anyone - Austen or his editors - actually read or at least understood the scripts for the last few months. The point of the last scene in issue #154 is that Jean Grey influences Scott to say yes to Emma's proposals (pursue their relationship, reopen the school) and thereby builds a happier and better future. Picking up straight where that issue left off, Austen goes straight back to having Scott say no again."...
"You also have to wonder why the closing scenes of issues #151 and #154, unequivocally located in a graveyard, are now just up the hill from the X-Men Mansion. When did the X-Men open their own graveyard, exactly? And when did it get so full?"...
"Then we have a plot about Cyclops and the Beast going into the mansion's sub-basements to find out whether Cassandra Nova is still safely contained after Magneto destroyed the mansion. Of course, this doesn't make a tremendous amount of sense, because Cassandra Nova was Ernst (something made perfectly clear last issue - and this issue's letters page shows that at least the assistant editor understood the plot)."
I understand that Leo Manco will be the new ongoing "Hellblazer" artist from #201.
GO FOR THE BYRNE
Last week it was Rob Liefeld's inconsistencies. now those finickity nit-pickers are having a go at comic master John Byrne.
In Marv Wolfman vs Marvel trial over the ownership/due payments for Blade and other characters, Byrne testified that he probably made a couple of million dollars specifically working on Superman for DC during in the early-mid 1980's.
From the Comics Journal transcript:
DILIBERTO: We don't dispute that. Between Marvel and DC, where you were working, $20 million is a fair assessment?
BYRNE: You said ten.
DILIBERTO: Ten million over 20 years?
BYRNE: Ten million over 20 years is probably fair.
DILIBERTO: How much of that ten million is Marvel? Five or six or seven million?
BYRNE: Yes. Well, again, it would be hard to break it down. I made a lot of money doing Superman. That wasn't for Marvel. I probably made a couple million dollars doing Superman.
However, I'm told that on his message board last week, he stated that he only made page rate and in total, would have been less than $300,000 - and that with inflation and his now-increased page rate he would only have just made that, today.
But what's a decimal point between friends?
Honestly, you'd think people would have better things to do with their time than compare things said one year with things said another year. Let the creators create the comics and stop going on about trivial, unimportant, unnecessary details to fill a rumor column.
I mean, come on.
OUT OF STASIS
X-Statix looks like it's for the chop... Mike Allred's post talks about the X-Statix/Avengers storyline as being a "swan song"
And then there's the new Madman series and his new project to consider, which may be a revamp of "Batman A Go Go..."
WHAT AM I TO YOU... A NEGOTIATING TOOL? HMMM?
Some creators are, quote naturally, nervous of talking to a column such as this one, about not being paid money by a company, for fear that they will never be paid.
However, I have been made aware of one creator who told a company that he's had queries from Lying In The Gutters, and would answer them in full if he didn't get paid.
So no story, but a paid creator.
That'll do, pig, that'll do.
MANGA BOON BOOM
Mills & Boon is one of the world's leading publisher of trashy romantic fiction. My gran used to have a shelf full and bought about five a week. She was a geek for the stuff.
They're currently bolstering their position in Japan. And what better way to start than by adapting the cream of their crop into manga? Romance manga is hardly new... it's a thriving category in Japanese publishing. And Mills & Boon already have a strong following in Japan, but one that's fading away as the audiences age, much as has happened in Britain. What a topsy-turvy world compared to the US/UK model, where a publisher decides to adapt their work into comics in order to attract a more mainstream audience...
I understand that Doug Goldstein and Matt Senreich, two of Wizard's longest remaining employees, have resigned after selling their movie property and getting toy/animation deal.
MENACE TO SOCIETY
Adrian Brown's been showing off another piece of art for his UK comics caharcter based "Just One Page II" project.
And it's Dennis The Menace (UK version) and Gnasher...
This week's Waiting For Tommy features an interview with Erik Larsen (where he pointedly refused to discuss Powers or Kabuki, damn him) and a review of "Shaun Of The Dead." And I am in it, I am.
It'll be the last one for a couple of weeks, but expect an explosive Tommy return with some top names!
And the next two week's LITG columns may be a little slight as the first I'll be writing from Prague, and the second from either Budapest or Vienna. If you live in any of those fair cities, give me a shout!
See you soon.
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.