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Welcome to the ninetieth 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.

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So there you go.

Apologies for the abruptness of this column. I hate these kinds of excuses, but it's a combination of flu, and changing PCs. Anyway, lots of short things, not many long things, onwards.

SHORT CUTS: THE GREENS

[Green Light]I understand Terry Dodson is confident he can complete ten issues of Mark Millar's "Spider-Man" in a year. Already finished issue 2, he's building in a bit of lead to keep things smooth.

Millar and John Romita Jr. should take over "Wolverine" with issue 20, Darick Robertson's last issue being 19.

Robertson will move to a two extra-large issues of "Hulk" that will wrap up Bruce Jones' current plot threads - and apparently have the Hulk hulking out, going crazy and causing mega destruction. The book will then continue in a very new direction.

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In an e-mail, Darick told me "the door is open for me to return to Wolverine for another arc after the Romita run, so it's possible that I may return to the title in the future, depending on scheduling."

Marc Sumerak and Casey Jones are working on "Guardians," a five issue limited series based around the "Guardians Of The Galaxy" concept, but does not have any continuity ties to previous versions of the team. Jones' pencils will skip inking and be digitally coloured directly by David Self. Expect publication in July or August.

Steve Niles has signed for a new series from DC Comics.

SHORT CUTS: THE AMBERS

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[Yellow Light]Ron Garney may be the new regular artist on "JLA."

The "Anthem" project from Image, leaked last Monday, has already had a name change after readers remembered a similarly titled WW2 superhero themed comic by Roy Thomas was published in Spain. Look for the new name soon.

Kaare Andrews is writing a creator-owned project for an unnamed publisher.

Skottie Young is doing five issues of "Venom," and then may do a run on "Spectacular Spider-Man."

Georges Jeanty, soon-to-be former artist of "Weapon X," will next work on a small independent project. He is also open to offers...

Todd McFarlane Productions won't allow Modern Zen artist Andy Lee to either discuss or show any artwork from his upcoming run on "Casefiles." Major security shut down on this one.

Aradication of the week: The Geoff Johns Avengers Sex opening scene that caused so much fuss, and was totally defended by Marvel editorial at the time, has been cut from the trade paperback.

Warren Ellis has stated that Marvel have chosen their new "Avengers" writer, and I understand from secondary sources that it's Brian Bendis, and one of the reasons Bendis dropped out of "Ultimate Fantastic Four."

Phil Jiminez is bringing back Donna Troy, somehow, somewhen. Look for a project featuring the Troia, the late Donna Troy, revived sometime after his "Otherworld" series ends. And he's never going to work on Fantomex again...

DC DEICISIONS

[Green Light]One of the first launches of DC/Humanoids this summer will be a new edition of "Deicide," by Portela & Das Pastoras. It will be 140 pages, featuring the first two volumes of "Les Heresiarques" and the short story from "Metal Hurlant" issue 1.

This may explain Humanoids offering earlier prints atdiscount in Previews, to clear competing stock for the new volume. Might be an indicator of future DC/Humanoids plans.

NAILED

[Green Light]This is the front cover of Steve Niles' "The Nail," by Simon Bisley for Dark Horse. Oh yes.

BETTER READ THAN DEAD

[Green Light]You've heard me go on about "Shaun Of The Dead," the British zombie romantic comedy movie coming out very shortly from the "Spaced" team... well, first if you haven't seen the TV show "Spaced" and you read this column, then you should rectify that immediately. If you haven't got a DVD that plays region 2 discs, get Bob Wayne to loan you his video tapes.

Anyway, "Shaun Of The Dead," both myself and Andy Diggle ("Losers," ex-editor of "2000AD") can be seen with a telescope in the background of one scene. And British sci-fi weekly comic "2000AD" will be publishing an exclusive, five-page "Shaun of the Dead" story, written by star and co-writer Simon Pegg and director and co-writer Edgar Wright, with art from friend-of-this-column Frazer Irving.

The first issue will hit newstands on 7th April with prog 1384, two days before the film goes national.

Titled "There's Something About Mary," the story follows a young supermarket check-out girl and how she comes to join the legions of the undead in the film. Rather than being an adaptation of a section of the plot, instead it weaves itself into the existing narrative, adding a further dimension to the characters.

Order your copies now.

SIGHS OF A COW

[Yellow Light]A week ago last Friday, production manager of Top Cow Alvin Coats left the company in a "was he fired, did he quit" scenario. On the following Monday, designer Stephanie Lesniak resigned in sympathy.

This left junior production staffer Chazz Riggs (previously Top Cow's security guard) to man the production department.

Already the gossip whores are busy with what will happen next. The favourite theory is that Brett Evans, who has worked with Hawkins colouring "Lady Pendragon" and producing an earlier line of comics with Hawkins for Image may take a hands-on position in Top Cow's production. Brett is currently lead designer at Image Central.

CROSSGENERAL RUMBLINGS - UPDATED 3/15/04 4:31 PM PST

[Yellow Light]Questions over who gets paid and who doesn't at CrossGen increase.

This week a number of CrossGen creators received letters about money owed asking their help in clarifying CrossGen's records. However, some have taken this to indicate that if they're not currently working for CrossGen, they should not expect payment in the near future.

It has been reported to me that it was eloquently expressed by Mark Alessi, as those who are seen to be "loyal" to the company get paid, those who aren't don't get paid. Others say that it simply comes down to two classifications of workers: those currently producing work for the company and those who produced work in the past.

Some have wondered if Alessi could sell off some of the artwork on his office walls, from the likes of Frank Frazetta. Turns out, there are already loans raised against them.

Recently a hotel where CrossGen staffers were staying, refused the company's credit card, and put the bill on the staffers' individual credit cards which had been handed over to pay for their incidentals (bar bills, etc). Others say that it wasn't a matter of the the company credit card being refused, but rather a regular hotel cock up... and that all staffers are being reimbursed by CrossGen for these expenses. Regardless the reason, it was a hairy moment for some.

However the school's programme, "Bridges," has proved a light in the darkness as a growing business, with each additional unit selling at $300 and now pretty much all profit.

Good to see there's at least one bridge that hasn't been burnt.

GOING UNDERGROUND

[Green Light]Dez Skinn's Quality Communications, publisher of Comics International (which reprints extracts from this very column) has a book out. Called "Comix," it's a hardback glossy coffee table book (with a paperback also available) detailing underground comix in the US and the UK. With a cover by Hunt Emerson featuring an impressive display of all the classic underground characters, look for a launch do at the ICA later this year, with Gilbert Shelton ("Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" and "Not Quite Dead") guesting.

With Titan Books restricting their comics-related titles to franchise-related reprints, and with four serious comics-related titles planned this year, maybe Quality Communications can fill the gap that's been missing.

JUST THREE PAGES

[Green Light]Comics charity fundraiser Adrian Brown ("Heroes," "Just One Page") has returned with a new Just One Page project for the Bristol convention this year. In it, celebrated and not-yet-celebrated writers and artists will spend just one page on a British comics character.

Here are Jack Staff by Jesse Farrell, Miracleman by Ted Wing, and Constantine by Dave Hitchcock

For more info, go here. Me? I'm doing Billy's Boots.

WAITING FOR PLANETARY

[Green Light]John Cassaday talked openly to me about X-Men, Planetary and his future in comics, in this week's Waiting For Tommy.

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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