Welcome to the sixty-eighth Lying In The Gutters, the long-running gossip and rumour column for the comic book industry. Written by British commentator Rich Johnston, it's read by 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 that all it takes is one more confirmation and it's ready for Newsarama. But Comicon Pulse will have it right now, thank you very much.
On with the show.
So what do your favourite comic book creators do when they're not making comics for your favourite two companies?
Obviously they're making comic book ads for your favourite anal muscle relaxant, targeted at certain minority groups.
Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker are the creators of Captain Rush, a superhero character and the star of a number of strips aimed to promote RUSH Liquid Incense from PWD, the nitrate deodorant used by all tolerant and experimental superheroes.
And as they say in the small print, "Although research indicates it is generally safe to do so, we do not encourage the misuse of our products as poppers."
That's you told then.
Read the latest tales as Captain Rush helps relax the citizens of the world at http://www.captainrush.com
SIZE DOESN'T MATTER
Newsarama's report that the new Avengers is to be a mature readers book for one issue, as a result of these three pages, has caused cloth to be torn across the Internet by certain rabid fans. Geoff Johns, long lauded as a new comics writer with a respect for the traditional mores of superhero comics, is now fast becoming a pariah in their eyes.
Added to more disappointment with his recent decompressed storytelling and a costumeless hero in the new issue of "Flash" and Geoff Johns is becoming a disappointment to them. Why he might as well be Brian Bendis.
The fact that these stories are actually rather good doesn't seem to enter into it.
But could it have been the artist's fault? The writer doing something innocent, to be warped by the evil perverted Marvel artist? No.
Steve Sadowski wrote "I just wanted to quickly point out, as someone alluded to, that I did not up-play (?) the sex scene in any way. It was illustrated as written. While the "camera angles" were not scripted, the action was drawn as described."
Geoff also responded by saying, "Never thought we'd get this kind of reaction from a scene about a superhero giving his lover a massage."
The explanation was deleted however, and replaced by Marvel's statement reclassifying the book for Mature Readers. It appears that Geoff's explanation was not believed by the powers that be.
Marvel's action also seems rather clod heavy considering they've published similar scenes before. The scene in question may be innuendo-laden, but it's non-explicit. The way Marvel has handled such issues before. It seems to be the possibility that Ant Man travelled up the Wasp's vagina that seems to have caused the fuss, as opposed to just having sex. By golly, it's almost as bad as homosexuality. Hey, do the Americans have the phrase "he's as tight as a gnat's chuff" at all? They do now.
In the end, this is a scene from one seen as a conservative Marvel writer, approved by Tom Brevoort, one seen as a conservative Marvel editor, then relabelled by Marvel, bringing attention to pages that might have avoided quite as much controversy if they'd been left alone. Which might mean more sales of course…
Geoff John told me, "Obviously, a lot of people reacted strongly to the scene, page '4' (including the recap page), describing what Hank and Jan were doing in detail under those covers. Lots of posts on my board saying we just had sex in 'Avengers.' I asked 'Who's to say it's not a massage?' Some posts said they 'knew what we meant.' I guess we tried to be ambiguous, but for some it was not ambiguous enough. For others not ambiguous at all. People still reacted strongly because this was 'Avengers' so the book was delayed and the rating level raised. So it is what it is, Rich. I've had my share of emails in the last few days. A guy even demanded to see the script of that page, so I threw it up on my site."
The script is reprinted below.
We're looking at a hotel suite -- in shambles. An over-turned chair, clothes all over the floor. Drawers open. Bottle of empty wine. Complete disarray -- it looks like there was a fight in here. A domestic brawl...because we want it to.
1. JAN (OFF-PANEL): HANK, PLEASE!
Moving towards the bed now. More disarray around it.
2. JAN (OFF-PANEL): No...
Cut to Jan -- naked, in the bed. The covers her up to her breasts. She has a smile on her face. Her eyes closed. One arm is over her head. exhausted.
3. JAN: ...more.
4. JAN: Mmmm.
Suddenly, a small figure climbs out of the covers and on to Jan's chest. A little man -- Hank.
5. HANK: All right, Jan--
Close on Hank. A wry smile. He's also naked.
6. HANK: --YOUR turn.
Which is pretty much as drawn, without any specific intimation as to what happened. Steve added a little sweat to Ant Man on the last panel, but hey, it's hot inside that duvet.
As for "Flash," it appears that some people have taken parody and comment on a certain style, as the style itself. Johns tells me, "'Ignition' isn't over. Some people are jumping the gun. See, there's a point to this story beyond Flash. We're 'addressing' non-costume, decompressed superhero books like it's a trend in comics, just like shoulder pads and big guns from the 90's. And why Flash isn't that. It's okay to wear a costume and run at the speed of light."
Come on guys, we can make it through together. Geoff Johns will show us the way.
EVERY EPIC COMES TO AN END
There's been quite a bit of doom and gloom talk about the ending of Epic of late. The line, championed by Bill Jemas, was seen as a way to inject new talent and explore new types of projects at Marvel, and also reducing the costs of production. Compared against the Marvel Knights deal, it was a remarkably cheap way to increase marketshare and spark new vitality into the line. Problems with creator-owned issues however, saw the likes of John Romita Jr and Mark Millar take projects elsewhere, and as the rejection notes started to go out, a number of bright hopefuls began to turn slightly bitter.
This week, however, I've continued to hear about the marginalisation of Bill Jemas within Marvel. Lying In The Gutters has already reported how his legendary editorial ambitions were thwarted on all but the Ultimate books (whose creators seem happy to have him) and the increase of Presidential positions saw Jemas' role diluted within the company. There have also been reports of headhunters seeking to replace him. And now I hear that Jemas has moved out of his Marvel office.
If these stories are true, it might also back up the word that Epic is to be dismantled. With many projects that had been given the green light, suddenly being discontinued and cancelled before they were even announced, and with Jemas being in less of a position to champion them, the current Epic setup may not be for long.
The contractual grounds that Epic championed, however, maybe useful for other projects. Nothing like cheap production costs after all!
New York's gotten the same cold snap that London's just been suffering from, it seems. And with DC Comics air conditioning still on full blast, it got a little nippy down there. Jumpers, jackets, gloves, even hats, everyone wrapped up warm.
Joey Cavalieri, hatless in New York and feeling the cold, improvised. He was seen wandering around the halls with a Federal Express letter pack on his bonce - as if nothing could be less out of the ordinary.
Air conditioning's off now… but if the sun hits they won't be able to turn it on again. Maybe Joe will be seen in just a Fed Ex letter pack sometime soon.
So how much did "Elfquest" cost DC? The rights to print graphic novels, books, film/TV spinoffs and merchandise rights? It appears that Wendy and Richard Pini, through Kitchen & Hansen Agency, LLC (world), trousered well over half a million dollars.
A four page preview of pencils for Walt Simonson's upcoming adaptation of a new Michael Moorcock "Elric" story from DC have been causing waves. Drawn on uber-sized paper, the work is reportedly stunning, hallucinogenically dense and ludicrously detailed.
Other artists reportedly have had their jaws treated for major drop.
LOSE THE SIGIL
Pulling together a skeleton crew of a company, CrossGen are looking to their strengths, With the sellouts of "El Cazador" 1, they will be launching another new Earth-based series in January. The new monthly series will also be a continuity-free affair, not steeped in CG lore, and will be written by "Route 666" and "Negation" writer Tony Bedard.
PRINT AND BE DAMNED
So let's give a cheer for Quantum Color FX, run by Robert Chong, a fairly recent printer currently in much favour for colour comic books. It appears that the likes of Image and CrossGen have been switching to them, as they offer better prices for colour books on smaller print runs than Quebecor or Brenner have of late.
And because they're new, they're not asking for any of that pesky money that might be owed them, like other printers have had to.
Steve Kurth will be the penciller for the new "Ghostbusters" comic from 88MPH. That is all.
Over at the Bryan Hitch Yahoo Group, Bryan has been talking about the Ultimate FF series he's doing covers and designs for, the changes made to it from the original FF concept, and the reason why.
"That was the brief. Marvel wanted something to be a multi-media franchise (Comic, CG Cartoon series, Movie, Video Game, etc) which this is going to be as none of the studios, developers and networks were interested in the Husband/Wife dynamic believing that children didn't want to watch something about their parents. After many development meetings with the various parties licensing the property Millar and Bendis went this route. It may be a little more Saturday morning meets 'Dawson's Creek,' or indeed 'Smallville,' but those are the demographics the parties wanted to reach and this was deemed the best way of doing it.
"One of the best aspects of the Ultimate line is that one can go this way and not effect the original book or it's hardcore fans. It seems like the best of both worlds.
"Anyway, I came in at the end and was just asked to do the design work as no artist had then been assigned. Johnny is 17, Sue is 19, Ben and Reed are 20. The scripts are great and the concept works really very well indeed in context of the story."
From The New Baker self-published comic distributed at conventions this summer. I just thought it merited wider play.
A DOG'S ARSE OF A CARTOON
And on the subject of editorial cartoons, the Guardian printed a fantastic example, from my favourite cartoonist Steve Bell which I feel the need to reproduce.
Not to mention the context. Um. The modern day Labour Party grew from very left-wing beginnings to the current left-of-centre, right-of-centre, depends-what-day-it-is governing party. Their old socialist theme song, The Red Flag, seems increasingly out of date and hasn't been sung at party conferences for years. Until this year, bizarrely. It goes:
The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts blood dyed its every fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
Labour's colours as red, the Conservatives (the Tories) are blue.
Our Deputy Prime Minister is John Prescott, believed to be a very left-wing politician, now seen as speaking his master, Tony Blair's voice. And earlier this week Prescott gave a speech at party conference full of loyalist rhetoric.
Okay, finally, Steve Bell's cartoon the day after.
They should give this man a medal. A very large medal.
ANOTHER FORBIDDEN PLANET
It appears that Forbidden Planet Scotland, one of the two chain of comic book retailers who use the Forbidden Planet brand name, have bought the chain of Another World comic book stores in the UK. Another World have a heavier concentration on Video games and media-related merchandise, just like Worlds Apart in Liverpool, also bought out by Forbidden Planet Scotland, they may keep their branding. For now.
Also, there's a brand new spanking Forbidden Planet Megastore, part of the non-Scotland chain, opened in London. On Shaftesbury Avenue near the old store, it really is rather lovely in there. As long as you don't want service, sense of community or a copy of "Sleaze Castle." Worth a trip though.
Saul Colt, the writer/creator/publisher of the book "Eclipse & Vega," has run out of artists. He writes, "I need a new artist. My artist quit in the middle of an issue. I have found someone to pick up the pieces but would like to stay on schedule so I need a great professional artist. My website is www.ssscomics.com and my email is email@example.com. This obviously is a paying project and would like someone to commit to a 2-3 story arc."
So, Frank Cho, Brian Bolland, Bryan Hitch, Alex Ross, since you've all got a hole in your schedule, why not give the man an e-mail?
Jenny Everywhere, the new open source, multi-dimensional comics character has been making a bit of a media splash. The New York Times ran an article about the star.
Talking about copyright online, and the trials and lawsuits of the music industry, the article mentioned, "In Britain, a small group of artists and editors has set up a Web site for Jenny Everywhere, an increasingly popular open-source cartoon. Its only requirement is that any cartoon include its license, which states "others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed."
Okay, it's Canadian actually, but the NYT was close. The Jenny Everywhere website is located at www.jennyeverywhere.com
GREEN WITH ENVY
Now, how about a sneak peek of Andy Diggle and Enrique Breccia's upcoming "Swamp Thing: Bad Seed" comic fresh from the Andy Diggle Forum?
What is this, a blog?
Far too many Americans have pitched in over who should be the next Doctor Who. Antony Head, Stephen Fry, Hugh Grant, Richard E Grant. Basically, any Brit actor they've heard off who can do "odd." Well, any British actor an American has heard of is likely to be far too famous. The Doctor should be bigger than the part. And Tom Baker's belief than Eddie Izzard has landed the part is depressing for the same reasons. As are the many appeals for Alan Davies, basically because he looks a bit like Tom Baker.
The writer, Russel Davies (who also wrote a now out-of-print Doctor Who novel, and put heavy Doctor Who references all the way through Queer As Folk) favours Bill Nighy. A brilliant, masterful choice. A fantastic actor who shone through all the other excellent performances in the recent BBC political thriller State Of Play. Michevious, clever, witty, incredibly sarcastic and very committed to his beliefs. Cut and paste that into the Doctor and you're sorted. Oh, and he looks like William Hartnell a bit, too.
The Alan Moore Art Auction continues apace. Get your bargains here.
DAYS OF TOMMY TO COME
The most recent Waiting For Tommy interviews Richard Emms of AP Comics. The previous one had ex-Marvel editor Jason Liebig giving New Marvel a drubbing. There's been a bit of a break as a result of my weeks off, but this week should see the first in a series of new interviews with some of comics' biggest and brightest.
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:firstname.lastname@example.org (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)
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Be seeing you.