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Welcome to the eighty-sixth 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.

CORPORATE HOARD

[Yellow Light]Marvel aren't the only ones who've had their solicitation details spilled...

WIZARD: THE COMICS MAGAZINE #152

3 EXCLUSIVE PREVIEWS ONLY IN WIZARD!

* Read 6-pages from Astonishing X-Men #1 by writer Joss Whedon (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) and John Cassaday (Captain America) from Marvel Comics!

* Get a 7-page preview of Catwoman: Roman Holiday #1, from DC Comics, illustrated by artist Tim Sale and written by Jeph Loeb for DC Comics. Loeb and Sale are the team that brought us Batman: Dark Victory, Daredevil: Yellow and Spider-Man: Blue.

* Read a preview of Ultimate Fantastic Four #7 by the new creative team of writer Warren Ellis and artist Stuart Immonen from Marvel Comics.

You know, I quite like "Comfortably Numb" from Scissor Sisters... and with Ellis' Justice League cartoon episode supposedly featuring The Atom, well, expect all sorts of things to come in that direction. Maybe Todd McFarlane on X-Men?

I really should write my thesis on exponential "spike" marketing...

GARTH BOOKS

[Green Light]Garth Ennis has a new creator-owned series coming out from Avatar, called "303." With art by Avatar regular (and regularly more impressive of late) Jacen Burrows, expect issue 1 of "303" to ship monthly in colour starting in June, with a .99 cent preview in May. It appears to be a war title, the title presumably referring to a specific army unit - though whether it'll be more along the lines of "War Story" or "Rifle Brigade," is yet to be determined.

But I reckon it's Avatar, it's probably closer to "Rifle Brigade."

I do, however, have cover art for May's Preview issue. I've also had a glimpse at the ad which will appear in May's Previews and which, well, should be hilarious for all the wrong reasons.

UPDATE: Dez Skinn, publisher of Comics International and a new guide to underground comix writes to say "'303' -- It's the Lee Enfield 303 rifle (invented in 1901, the first version was used by the British army until WW2. Subsequent versions up to Mk 4 were standard issue up until the end of conscription).

"The big difference between the Mk I and Mk IV, of course, being that the Mk IV did have that slightly longer muzzle, increasing the accuracy, while the Mk l is regarded by us all as the true classic. I thought everybody knew that!

"Not exactly a mystery of 1602 proportions, I fear.

"Garth's fixation coming from the Air (rifle) Cadets BTW, not the Fatboy Slim single 'Everybody needs a 303' which refered to the little-known Mk V 303 -- an SLR mixing desk!"

Thanks Dez. So, sounds less like the "Rifle Brigade" style then...

EDGE OF REASON

[Yellow Light]So… in light of the rumour about CrossGen getting a cash injection, who is getting paid... and who isn't?

Well there has been some evidence that, in light of last week's news about CrossGen receiving a cash injection, that some creators are being paid. Admittedly, it does seem to be ones that CrossGen have an ongoing relationship with, but that hasn't been a necessary correlation with getting paid in some cases.

I understand that $350,000 has been made available for paying past creators. I contacted a few without much response, save for "Sojourn" writer Ian Edginton. With Sojourn nudging back into the Top 100, you might expect him to be on better terms with CrossGen.

I understand that there were some heated conversations recently, but as of now, Ian is totally paid up with CrossGen and is continuing to write the title for them. Which is nice.

SOUR GRAPES OF BRATH

[Yellow Light]But there have been reports that contradict even this approach. I understand that Rob Schwager has handed in his letter of resignation to Rick Magyar, CrossGen's current art director, and penciller and best friend Andrea Di Vito was seriously considering following suit. This was down to non-payment to both artists, combining at $15,000. Di Vito has refused to hand in any more pages until his portion of the back payment for services rendered is paid in full and writer Chuck Dixon was been reported as saying that if Di Vito leaves "Brath," the book will not continue.

However, this may be moot. Bill Rosemann e-mailed to tell me, "A few weeks ago, due to low sales, we had to make the decision to end 'Brath' with June's issue #17. We picked that issue because, once our trade paperback program is humming again, that will complete the third 'Brath' collection (Vol. 1 = Prequel - #5, Vol. 2 = #6 - #11, Vol. 3 = #12 - #17). As I understand it, Andrea and Rob have agreed to stay with 'Brath' through issue #17, except for issue #15, which will be illustrated by regular 'Brath' fill-in artist, Alcatena. We thank all the readers who championed the Hammer of Ure, who will fight on in the pages of Negation War."

THE OLD COUNTRY

[Green Light]Steve Rolston is returning to 'Queen And Country' for a new arc, with issue 25 of the series. Expect a scriptbook to accompany the first arc in June, too

Here's the cover…

MARVEL OF FUTURE PAST

[Yellow Light]I hear not too long ago, Marvel turned down a studio wishing to create a gay Rawhide Kid sitcom. I know, "turned down" isn't something you expect to hear when it comes to TV/movie licenses and Marvel, but apparently, right now, Marvel want to steer clear of controversial stuff. You know, the kind of stuff that helped them get out of bankruptcy and raised their profile and profitability across the industry.

This week, Marvel editorial was having a "fun" time presenting Bill Jemas co-replacement Gui Kayro a year-long publishing plan to show the rest of the Marvel board of executives. With the "non-controversial" edict coming down how Marvel Publishing reconciles past and current publishing plans with the current wishes of their masters will be seen in the coming months.

Bill Jemas' contract reportedly ran out in early February. But he's still there… New contract? Part time contract? Something else? Business as usual, just with different faces up front?

LIST IN TRANSLATION

[Yellow Light]The English language version of the "Battle Royale" manga is being translated by Keith Giffen. No news there, but who else in comics is being tapped to give polish to English translations?

I understand DC approached Brian Azzarello with the aim for him to do the same with "Blacksad."

However, Ibooks won the licence for English translations, and the project was aborted.

Nevertheless, with DC about to launch a manga line and linking up with Humanoids, just who are they going to choose to translate, or translate and polish?

PRESENTS FOR BEING GOOD

[Green Light]Digital Webbing Presents is an anthology that's survived against the odds, premiering work from amateur creators who have hung around the Website of the same name. And it's proving a remarkable way to enter the industry. And something to do with all those rejected Epic pitches.

With only 13 issues out, they've spotlighted the work of a number of people who've gone onto bigger things. Let's have a lit.

Chris Kirby, "Freakshow"

Nick Postic and Nick Marinkovich - "Underworld," IDW

Mitchell Breitweiser - "Phantom Jack," Image

Dave Crossland - "Puffed," Image

Ryan Ottley, pencils "Invincibles," Image

Cal Slayton pencils "Shades of Gray"

Jon Sommariva doing "GoBoy" for DarkHorse

Ed Dukeshire (also DWP Publisher) letterer for a number of books.

Dan Wickline, Writer, "Metal Hurlant," Various Avatar projects

And Kody Chamberlain, who appears in this month's issue, is already making waves…

POND LIFE

[Yellow Light]I hear that across The Pond Comics, a fairly new publishing company, is planning to start a new line of titles, including an anthology entitled ATP Presents, which will feature, amongst other titles, the popular "Necro-City Chronicles" by Ritchie Blackmon that made a small splash across the 2003 convention circuit, as well as Scott Fry's superhero-without-the-right-attitude, "Gauche-Man."

Other titles include licensed works - comparisons to an early Dark Horse seem not without merit.

THOR SPOT

[Green Light]I understand Drew Geraci, inker for "Thor" is about to publish an interesting story in his blog tomorrow. About Bob Burden, CrossGen and the possibliliy that Steve Ditko could have worked on a Code 6 title… make the call, Drew, make the call!

WAITING FOR TOMMY KNOCKERS

[Green Light]88MPH, the studio that came from nowhere is headed by Sebastian Clevet. No scratch that, it is Sebastien. No one else. So how did someone like him grab the "Ghostbusters" licence? And how was "Tron 2.0" dropped? Sebastien talks to Waiting For Tommy.

And next week, Larry Young.. Hoo hah!

SHIFTING BOXES

[Green Light]While I'm in a plugging mood, I need to clear some space. eBay was good but time consuming. If anyone would like 1000-2000 comics and a bunch of graphic novels in long boxes to take away, lots of mostly-indie stuff from the last two to three decades, with some great runs, at some ludicrously cheap price (say £300) and you live in the London area (and have your own transport) give me a shout on the details below.

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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