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Welcome to the eighty-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.

CLAWS FOR HAPPINESS

[Green Light]Over at Fanboy Radio, John Romita Jr mentioned that not only is he doing a Punisher arc with Garth Ennis, but also some Wolverine issue with Mark Millar.

And Mark wants to put the bad boy back in the cowl...

HEY KIDS! COMICS!

[Yellow Light]Remember last week when I spoke about Marvel's attempt to make their Marvel Universe line very kid-friendly again?

I understand this policy is driven by Gui Kayro and Dan Buckley, and was part of their publishing plan to Ike Perlmutter, to make the Marvel Universe as kid-friendly as possible, and commercially viable and safe for licenses as they can. The only sop they've given editorial, some of whom are as displeased about this as some of the creators, is the Marvel Knights and MAX lines. Hence the moving of several key, yet challenging, creative titles ("Hulk," "X-Statix," Millar's "Spider-Man" and more) to those lines. And this week that policy exhibited itself in a number of ways.

The firing of Igor Kordey for a style that is considered no longer acceptable for the launch of Excalibur, and the redrawing of the first issues. Igor Kordey talked about this decision with me in this week's Waiting For Tommy. His attitude to the return of superhero costumes probably didn't help.

The decision to release specific Joss Whedon dialogue from "Astonishing X-Men," designed to portray the future of the Marvel line, a return to costumes and more black and white (in gaudy colours) superheroics.

The leak that Bob Morales will no longer be writing "Captain America."

Look for the culmination of this policy at Marvel over the summer with what is only being called "The Bendis Event" in my earshot.

MORAL MINORITY

[Yellow Light]I understand Bob's departure from Captain America was down to his take on the book being an overtly political one. No surprise, that was always the editorial plan, and he showed that ability with the fine "Truth" miniseries. We can surmise that Gui Kayro and Dan Buckley's declaration (with David Bogart on bass) is that this doesn't just mean sex and violence. Storylines inspired by topical political thinking, however well disguised, are a no-no. The revamp of Captain America was designed as a Marvel Knights title, but now it's been absorbed back into the Marvel Universe, it's becoming more of a supporting title to the "Avengers."

However, he's not going out with a whimper. I hear Morales' last issues will be drawn by Eddie Campbell.

Bob Morales declined to comment on this story.

THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK - AND NOWHERE TO STICK A CIGARETTE.

[Yellow Light]The limits to what Marvel Knights can get away with, may well be stretched by a new signing. I understand Warren Ellis will be writing an Iron Man book for the Marvel Knights line.

Ellis declined to comment on this story.

DAYS OF VARIANTS PAST

[Yellow Light]According to a prominent creator, there is a very vocal group of people at Marvel who want more variant covers and collectible marketing at Marvel. The recent decision to release a gold second printing of "Secret Wars," more copies available to retailers who under ordered issue 2 of "Secret Wars" and make that right (as opposed to those who ordered lots of the book initially) was, in part, an effort to satisfy those people as well as trying to get some kind of second print on the market.

This may be the thin end of the wedge. We may be looking at a return to the decision making about variant covers and collectability being marketed over substance, the opposite attitude that Quesada and Jemas brought to the table.

This wouldn't be the first time that Marvel has excelled when under pressure however. What exciting new projects Marvel editorial have planned in the face of this policy, we have yet to see.

HOLED UP ARMY

[Green Light]Right. Lying In The Gutters is free to the reader (well, apart from the price you pay in moral terms for reading it). So it's time to make a donation. In comics.

This week, order Rich Johnston's "Holed Up" from your comics retailer.

If the retailer needs ordering information, it's…

DIAMOND PREVIEWS PAGE 232

AVATAR PRESS

SPOT MAR04 2307 RICH JOHNSTONS HOLED UP #1 (Of 3) (MR) $3.50

[Holed Up]for the story-content cover. And

DIAMOND PREVIEWS PAGE 232

AVATAR PRESS

SPOT MAR04 2308 RICH JOHNSTONS HOLED UP HOMELAND SECURITY ED #1 (Of 3) (MR) $3.50

for the suicide bomber cover.

You see, there's a phrase that just doesn't get used enough.

Even if you absolutely hate the comic, at least you've made a donation to something you do enjoy (or at least tolerate), this column, and you'll probably get your money back on eBay.

Also, in a desperate attempt to kick off some faux-guerilla marketing, I've formed a Holed Up Army, drawing together people with one purpose, to help me promote the damn thing, get a few retailers to order the bugger and maybe get a bit of chat going.

I'm looking for multiple message board posters, bloggers, designers, activists, journalists, or anyone with a load of friends on email. Sign up here and see the first three missions on the board. Pick one, and get going.

I declined to comment on this story.

DRAWING THE DOTS

[Green Light]And I'm not referring to the Lichtenstein exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on London's South Bank (impressive and comprehensive as it is).

How easy is it to work out Marvel's upcoming "Fantastic Four" creative team?

Firstly, Mark Waid stated he'd be co-writing an arc on "Fantatistic Four," saying "Inker and all-around writer extraordinaire Karl Kesel had a great, great idea for the Frightful Four, so Karl's stepping in to co-write issues #514-516 showcasing the Wizard's new--and genuinely frightful--team, consisting of both familiar and new faces"

Then Mike Wieringo revealed he wouldn't be drawing it, saying, " when 513 comes out, I'll hopefully be working on issue 518. Marvel's going to skip me a few issues ahead after 513. There's going to be a 3-issue story arc drawn by another artists-- and then I start back up with 517. But, hopefully by the time 513 hits the stands, I'll be on to 518."

Then, Tom Breevoort added the final dot, saying, "Paco Medina will be doing a couple of issues in 2004, in addition to 'Ringo."

So, a Waid/Kesel and Medina team on a Frightful Four arc for "Fantastic Four" then?

ALAN ATTACK

[Green Light]Oh, to be Charleroi and in love… well some people certainly love Alan Moore and have gone out of their way to prove it.

IS THERE ROOM FOR ANOTHER LEE IN COMICS?

[Yellow Light]Tony Lee is still trying to turn his "X-Men Unlimited" work into a fully fledged career.

His creator-owned projects "Mythlands" and "Hunters Moon" will have a baby, with "Jigsaw Lady," appearing in an upcoming "Digital Webbing Presents," written and drawn by his co-collaborators, Owen Gieni and Don MacKinnon.

As to the reason he's on the Marvel panel at the Comics Festival in Bristol, well, we hate to speculate…

Wait a minute, no we don't.

New ongoing series for Marvel?

SIM BULLISM

[Green Light]Not every comics creator interview runs smoothly. Daniel Way and Comicon Pulse anyone? Me and Joe Quesada? Well, I'd hate to think how a Waiting For Tommy with Dave Sim would go… but now I don't have to.

CREATIVE DIRECTORS IN DISGUISE

[Green Light]From Newsarama's recent Transformer's feature.

Dreamwave's Creative Director James McDonough explained... "Our TF team has a great understanding of the property, Mick and Patyk live and breathe the world of TF and it's awesome to have these guys tackle the TF universe with their knowledge on the property. Ruff and Don have been working on multiple TF projects for DW and it's no surprise that they were given the Summer Special to work on."

"We have some really big plans scheduled for the end of the year. One of which is to constantly surprise our fans with "little extras" such as the bonus Megatron story in issue [Transformers: Generation One] #4, as well as several contests and fun events for this year's convention circuit. Another, and probably the most exciting, treat for the fans will be a much lengthier collaboration between Pat Lee and Brad Mick scheduled for the end of this year. Also, expect the Transformers 20th anniversary banner to grace all of our covers for the rest of the year."

Really James, you should stop talking about yourself in the third person. Especially in such glowing terms.

Brad Mick *is* James McDonaugh everyone.

It got rather confusing as at a Transformers convention last year. At one point during a round table, Adam Patyk from Toyfare kept referring to his companion and ex-Wizard staffer as "Brad" while Pat Lee kept calling him "James".

BLOWING CROSSGEN AWAY

[Yellow Light]CrossGen's finances, recently reportedly boosted by an injection of cash, have yet to see much trickledown to those owed money by the company, as the payment is not only not going to people who left because they weren't being paid, but also people who are suspected of looking for replacement work.

The finances appear to have taken another blow, however.

DRAGON'S BREATH

[Green Light]Erik Larsen writes, regarding last week's story about the bevy of newcomer artists reporting they've got contracts for Dragon-related spinoffs, "this is hardly news--I've been running backups in 'Savage Dragon' by pros and semi-pros for quite a while now. There aren't plans for any Savage Dragon-related spin-off titles but I figure that since I have a few pages to play with--I might as well make use of them."

"Savage Dragon," like "Cerebus," is a book that goes out of its way to include back up material well what one might expect. In any given 22 page issue, you'll find pages of letters, back up strips, spotlights and general good stuff, free, thrown in, and not available in the trades.

Have you picked up a bonus-filled copy of "Savage Dragon" today?

BLUNDERCATS

[Yellow Light]And while we're talking of corrections and clarifications, Erik Ko has denied that Udon are getting the license to "ThunderCats" as reported last week in LITG. But where could the rumour have started?

Could it be the possibility that they're actually drawing the next series *for* DC/Wildstorm?

Yes, it could.

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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