[Green Light]The traffic light is the colour of my face and it's not pretty. Sorry, there's no way I'm going to the London Comic Festival on Saturday. I also doubt if there'll be an LITG on Monday... tjhis is taking all my energy as it is.

If you hear anything fun at either London or Vegas, do make sure you email it on... 8-)

Right, I'm off to vomit some more phlegm. See, told you it wasn't pretty.

Oh, and make sure you catch the new Waiting For Tommy with Comicon Pulse's Heidi MacDonald...

Welcome to Lying In The Gutters number 71. This is the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Written by British commentator Rich Johnston, it's read by comic book professional and reader 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.

The traffic lights are there for your own protection. The Red light indicates that the content of the piece is most likely a mixture of agenda and confusion. Amber means at least the agenda is tempered by facts this time. Possibly. And Green means it's true. Probably. Ah, you never know. Could always be a first.

If reprinting from this column, please only reprint a relevant portion of an article and include a link so people can get the rest. That way, glory lies.

On with the show.


[Yellow Light]I apparently know who the new writer of "New X-Men" is, to follow Grant Morrison and then Chuck Austen. But if I report it, I may scupper the deal. Gah! And, since I'd rather read X-Men comics by this individual, than report the rumour and wreck the project, I guess I'm going to hold this one in.

Yes, I know it's frustrating. It's even more frustrating to me. But, apparently, Salvador Larocca will be drawing them.



[Green Light]There are other significant changes coming to the X-stable that apparently I can talk about. Chris Claremont and Alan Davis are believed to be working together on an ongoing X-Men title, probably "Uncanny X-Men." I understand Davis has been paid a significant over-the-odds amount to return to this title, a page rate of over 500 dollars a page - and that's before royalties or art sales come into it. Neither Claremont or Davis returned e-mails.

I also hear that Rob Liefeld is to take full creative reins on a new "X-Force" title, as Marvel outsource the entire creative and editorial responsibilities on the book to him. Liefeld will also be responsible for producing a range of one-shots and mini-series associated with the project. Expect the return of a number of his New Mutants and X-Force characters. Liefeld declined to comment.


[Green Light]I've been leaked the first cover to Avatar's Vivid Comic Book line. First mentioned in this column, Vivid will contain stories featuring scenes of hardcore pornography, starring the likenesses of a number of the Vivid Video adult movie stars.

Listed under Vivid Comix in the Adult catalogue, the creative team spans five countries: Steven Grant (USA), Antony Johnston (England), Juan Jose Ryp (Spain), Marco Turini (Italy), and Carlos Fernando (Brazil). The teams split thus:

"Dry Heat" - Writer: Steven Grant; Artist: Marco Turini

"Spellbound" - Writer: Antony Johnston; Artist: Juan Jose Ryp

"White Light" - Writer: Antony Johnston; Artist: Carlos Fernando

Publisher William Christensen told me "What we put together was the best written and drawn adult comics ever published, starring the hottest adult actresses. The stories were always created to be great reads as well as the hottest stuff on paper."

Got to say, despite the criticism this kind of project often attracts, the women do look a lot more realistic than you'll find in many a comic book…


[Green Light]They really shouldn't leave these things lying around on photocopiers. The pitch document for a new ongoing series by Warren Ellis for Wildstorm, starting next summer, "Desolation Jones."


An officially-dead British secret agent goes underground in LA, living in a ghost community of ex-spooks and trying to do the right thing in a world run by lies and bodycounts.

a new creator-owned ongoing series by

Warren Ellis

For mature readers

They sealed him in a small room filled with TV screens. TV screens formed the entire surface area of all six walls. There was nothing else. They locked him into a chair that hung in the centre of a spherical arrangement of powered tracks, so that he would slowly, constantly be moved through 360º, viewing all the screens in turn. Intravenous feed and waste processing units were bolted into his body. The screens displayed documentary images of death, of murder, of horror 24 hours a day. For a year.

And when the door unsealed… everyone was gone. Like it was all a practical joke no-one had let him in on. Project discontinued by a regime change. Michael Jones, alcoholic British secret agent who agreed to be an experimental patient for The Desolation Test to keep him in the service, was officially dead. Left with a cash retirement fee and told to stay away. Used up and spat out by the intelligence community - for being unable to handle the stresses of his job properly, for drunkenly submitting as a test subject to a procedure designed to discover exactly how much horror the human mind can take without destroying itself.

The Desolation Test, and Michael Jones (tattooed on his arm, like a concentration camp survivor, with the word DESOLATION 001), no longer exist.

He ran. He ran to Los Angeles, USA, where he knew there was an underground community of ex-spooks - people like him, people all smashed up by the world of secrets and lies. Made into things they were never supposed to be, by people using them as cogs in their dark machines that run the world. It's the easiest city in the world to hide in, because if you're strange, nobody looks at you, nobody at all…

Jones sets himself up as a private investigator to this secret community. His rationale is simple. It's something to focus on, to put his life back together. And it's a way to ensure that all the broken people in the dark don't get hurt any more.

Jones is human wreckage: pale and skinny, wracked with physical problems, hallucinating as fallout from the Test. The only real advantage he has over anyone else is that death is meaningless to him - his or anyone else's.

DESOLATION JONES is a collision between TRANSMET, GLOBAL FREQUENCY, PLANETARY and HELLBLAZER; standing the detective/spy genres on their head, with supermodern content and social commentary in the Raymond Chandler style.


[Yellow Light]From the man who brought you "Batman And Robin" and "A Beautiful Mind," I hear Akiva Goldsman is involved in bringing an adaptation of DC Vertigo's "The Losers" to the screen.


[Yellow Light]"Agent X" has finally ended. Sad day for such a fun and boundary breaking comic book. But with a superhero comedy success going on over at "Formerly Known As The Justice League," is there any future for Gail Simon'e particular style of mercenary mania at Marvel? Could be….

Gail Simone recently posted "Wouldn't it be fun… An 'Agency X' book, with the survivors of this story, and Arcade running the show? I just like that idea."

So do we, Gail, so do we…


[Yellow Light]Last month, this column reported how MVCreations, who publish comics through CrossGen, were also on the receiving end of… well… not receiving payments.

Recently MVCreations has been sending updates to their creators as to when they can expect payment. It seems CrossGen did issue a very small payment to the studio in early October, but not enough to provide payment to creators for overdue invoices.

MV also made mention of a proposal they made to CrossGen to insure payment. It dealt with deferring payments to MV for MV/CGE titles that CG was set to collect from Diamond in October. It would seem, however, that the proposal was not entertained.

MVCreations recently acquired the purchase orders for their books solicited through CrossGen, and have been printing and delivering comics to Diamond directly. MV has told creators that they will begin issuing payments in mid-November drawn from the Diamond payment for these same books. MV also said they plan to have all past due payments caught up by the December holiday season.

There doesn't seem to be any word on whether or not CrossGen will pay the remainder due to the studio for books published from July through September. It appears MV has not crossed paths with any freelancer paid by CrossGen since CG's self proposed payment date of October 1st.


[Green Light]Another fun-looking panel by Todd McFarlane for the rapidly-approaching-13th Anniversary Image hardcover…


[Yellow Light]So what did happen with DC and Thunder Agents?

I've been chasing different versions of this story and how the project collapsed for a few months now. Here's how it all boils down.

John Carbonaro, who owns the rights to Wally Wood's silver age superhero team Thunder Agents, is described as both "dedicated and principled" or "obsessed and overly-moral" depending on who you talk to. He'd licensed the rights to DC Comics, who were publishing Archive editions of the old comics. And there was a new series on the cards.

I understand Carbonaro began to suspect something was up with DC over a year ago when Dan Didio missed a couple of meetings. When Carbonaro a few weeks later saw the first artwork for the New Thunder Agents, he could see why. It was a little "heavier" than he'd been expecting. "Authority-Lite" was the label some in the industry had given it.

Then the "bible" arrived, detailing the many harsher, edgier changes DC was making and John kicked off big style. The only specific example I've heard is John objecting to the character NoMan's additional (and disposable in battle) bodies being clones instead of robots.

Tempestuous meetings were had. John said he'd pull the license. Didio said he didn't want the license if he had to do it any other way, that anything else was stuck in the past.

And there they left it. The license was pulled and the creative costs on the series project to date were added on to the costs of the Archive editions, reducing heavily the resulting payments made to John Carbonaro.

Which probably means DC will never have the chance to publish more Thunder Agents. But will anyone take it on now?


[Yellow Light]One ongoing opportunity working for DC Comics has been the ability to trade for credit your complimentary comics to comic book retailers in New York. Officially forbidden and frowned upon, it has been semi-tolerated through the years at both DC and Marvel. For some it's a way to keep their apartments clear, for others it's a perk of the job, and for some shops, it's a reason to order less DC titles, as they can rely on getting a large number of them at discount rates from DC employees who visit there - Jim Hanley's Universe is considered a prime and pleasant destination.

However, eBay is just a little too visible. And one dismissed employee was caught selling large amounts, making detailed accounts of what he had sold and for how much - even buying them from other staff for cash and selling them online. After dismissal, his girlfriend took the opportunity to officially tell DC President and Publisher, Paul Levitz just how widespread this practice was, including several senior staff members. As a result, sales of complimentary comics have been expressly forbidden. Cue anger at the execs… and the guy who got caught.

The glory days, when DC employees got Marvel comps as well and could find willing people to take hundreds of dollars of books off them every week are long gone, but some seem to have relied on recent activities too much. Looks like they'll be working after hours in Dunkin Donuts to make up the difference.

No trips to Six Flags are going to make up for this one.


[Green Light]Last weekend's Dude Ranch gathering got rather explosive. With the likes of Garth Ennis, Dan Buckley, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Nelson, JG Jones, William Christensen and Darick Robertson in attendance, someone decided to shoot things.

One impromptu trip to the shops later, suddenly there was two hundred dollars worth of melons, marrows and meats to be shot to hell.

Photos and videos exist. Should be fun. No confirmation of silly head dresses yet though.


[Green Light]Regarding that Mojo Press article from last week, here's a couple of updates.

First some designs from Dave Cockrum for his title, then pencils from Ron Randall, and a design from Kevin J West.


Currently Mojo is planning to fly their artists down to New Mexico for a week-long tour of the Chihuahuan desert and a series of meetings with local businessmen and politicians about their work.

Regarding Carlton J Donaghe and Ron Frenz' s "American West" concept with Joe Rubenstein - it appears that Freddie Williams will be pencilling it, with Joe Rubenstein inking rather than the other way around. Apologies - I hear its eleven page story with a "Crypt Keeper" type of narrator.


[Yellow Light]DC's inability to interact with real-world media has been commented on almost as much as Marvel's willingness to interact far too much.

Take the magazine "The Resident," recently featured in Lying In The Gutters for the article "Exit Sandman" (more on that later).

The editor of the magazine, it seems, attended a convention at the Expo Center at the Garden last year and saw artwork for an upcoming Paul Pope book ("100%"). Depicting what looked like a futuristic New York, he asked about reprinting the artwork on the cover of an upcoming Resident, with full acknowledgement, publicity and plugs for the comic and DC Comics.

One DC employee handed him details of who he'd need to contact. When he did make contact, however, no one returned his calls.


[Green Light]Neil Gaiman had comment on the article from "The Resident" we linked to last week. Gaiman asks "are you really suggesting that, with over two hundred people in line, and a building that was going to be closing its doors in about an hour, I should have stopped the signing for fifteen or twenty minutes and done an interview for the guy? As far as I could see, Patty and Shelly were simply doing their jobs by suggesting that he move along after one question and having his stuff signed.

"And it's not like it should have been any surprise:"

Gaiman referenced one of his own rules for people attending signings… "8) The only people who ever get short shrift from me are the people who turn up with tape recorders who try and tape interviews during signings. I won't do them - it's unfair on the other people in the line, and unfair on me (and I was as curt with the guy from the LA Times who tried it as I am to people who decide on the spur of the moment to try and tape something for their college paper). If you want to do an interview, ask the bookstore who you should talk to in order to set it up."

The journalist in question, Todd Allen, seemed to have arranged such a meeting with the fair and the director of the event. Looks like miscommunication from someone, somewhere…


[Green Light]Travis Charest popped onto the Lying In The Gutters Forum to correct a piece from last week, saying "Rich has no idea what he's talking about, I did the vampy piece as a commission for an individual, I'm not leaving Humanoids and I can't believe this stupid rumor has gotten this far. 'green light' my ass."

I think that's as unequivocal as it gets, yes?


[Yellow Light]One for the H.E.A.T. devotees.

Hal Jordan will be Green Lantern again, next year.

Happy now?


[Green Light]Warren Falson Jr. wrote to say "To prove to the entire planet how cool a person John Romita, Jr. is, I wanted to share this with you. I asked him to put my wife's name in a comic book as a wedding gift to her. He did it in a big way. In Amazing Spider-Man # 500!! Page 42, panel one on a billboard behind Doc Strange! It had her name Trafena as big as Broadway. She loves it!"

I wonder if I could get John Romita Jr to advertise my eBay listings in his next comic?


[Green Light]Mark Millar's wife's sister loves the TV show, Angel. Badly.

When Joss Whedon got in touch with Bryan Hitch about buying the HULK WANT FREDDIE PRINZE JUNIOR page from Ultimates as a present for Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Junior's wedding, Bryan Hitch sold it to Joss on the condition he got David Boreanez to write a very personal note indeed to Millar's sister-in-law plus a photograph.

It'll be a fun Christmas in the Millar household.


[Yellow Light]It appears that Jim Lee is attempting to get Gabrielle Dellotto, upcoming artist on something that might be Bendis' Secret Wars, over at Wildstorm. They certainly spent a lot of time together at the Marvel booth at a recent German convention in Essen...

Here's a cover Gabrielle did for a recent German edition of the Hulk comic.


[Green Light]Next Saturday is the London Mini-Comics Festival, a spinoff from the spring's more leisurely Bristol weekend convention.

Details are here and I'm a guest - and I'm also planning a Live Lying In The Gutters for half an hour in a nearby pub. Details will appear in this column by Friday, see you then!


[Green Light]Gail Simone's outstanding writing on "Birds Of Prey." Right now she's telling incredibly tight, witty and well-characterised stories tying up current continuity. From issue 62, see something very new indeed. Think "The Anatomy Lesson" and we'll go from there.

The "21 Down" 1-7 trade paperback that you said you'd wait for comes out this week. Introduction from Garth Ennis, it's well worth a place on the bookshelf.

"New X-Men" Vol 2 Hardcover. I love this comic more than is recommended by medical experts. The most improved book from New Marvel and that's saying something.

"The Masterplan" by Scott Mills from Top Shelf. Now that's a longform graphic novel. Sci-fi-ish, though more philosophy bent into that shape. Never mind the quantity, feel the width!

And the new Waiting For Tommy interview with Truth and Captain America writer, Bob Morales, right now.


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:

Be seeing you.

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