Welcome to the sixty-seventh 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.


[Green Light]Yes, yes, very funny Mark Millar. A rather well written hoax. And he'd have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for Orson Welles spending the time he supposedly was working on Batman, producing the "Eighty Days Around The World" stage play. The Riddler not being invented until later. And supposed source, Lionel Hutton, throwing up no Google references, except to Millar's Column.

Good one though. I reckon this'll quickly become another comics legend.


[Green Light]

The charity auction first wave from the Alan Moore: Portrait Of An Extraordinary Gentlemen has been underway this week. A couple of days left to go... and my goodness! Some people have even bid for my piece!


[Green Light]Neil Gaiman gave a speech at the recent Book Fair which seems to have passed the usual outlets. Maybe a summary or two is in order.

The current "Endless Nights" hardcover began as a request for an Endless Secret Files, along the lines of DC's other Secret Files volumes for their characters, exploring their origins, their status, their cast, their raison d'etres. DC bugged him for a while until an editor asked "you're not really going to do this are you?" and Neil agreed that no, he wasn't.

He was asked what he would do and he described "Endless Nights," a graphic novel with short stories for each of the cast, but he'd only do if they got artists he really liked and hadn't had a chance to work with. As an example, he stated Milo Manara. He was asked, if they got Milo, would he do the book? He replied that he would.

The next day, he was told they'd got Milo.

As for the Bill Sienkiewicz story, he got the pages in at the last minute, then rearranged them on the floor, put them into an order he was happy with, then re-scripted the whole thing.

Apparently Frank Miller did the same thing on "Elektra Assassin."


[Green Light]Tony Panaccio, made redundant from CrossGen earlier this week, has been spotting doing something miles away from comics. And just down the road.

A young child needs bone marrow transplant urgently, and it's been very difficult to find a match. It's worth getting the word out. And it's worth applauding Tony for arranging this days after he lost his job.

Maybe you can help. The full press release is reprinted below. Find out more about the crisis at www.fbsblood.org. E-mail Tony at tonypanaccio@yahoo.com. And if you're in the area, there's a drive for marrow donors scheduled for Tuesday the 30th from 11am to 4pm at the The Phyllis Marshall University Center, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Tampa Bay Area Girl Needs Bone Marrow Transplant, But Cannot Find Donor

Tampa, FL September 26, 2003 -- A 3-year-old Tampa girl may be the latest victim of a bone marrow donor crisis that is affecting ethnic minorities around the country.

NBC News last night reported a national crisis for ethnic minorities waiting for bone marrow transplants. More than three-quarters of the existing 5 million existing bone marrow donors in the national registry are Caucasian. That means anyone who belongs to an ethnic minority will have an exponentially more difficult task finding a match. Experts estimate that more than 4,000 people a year, mostly minorities, die from leukemia alone because they can't find a matching donor.

Katia Solomon, the three-year-old daughter of Myron and Tracy Solomon of Carrollwood, falls into the ethnic minority category, and may soon die without a bone marrow transplant. She was diagnosed with Leukemia in April of 2002, has been through a battery of chemotherapy and complications, fought her way into remission, but as of last month, has relapsed and been readmitted to All Children's Hospital to prepare for a life-saving bone marrow transplant. The only problem is that the family, working with the Florida Blood Service, has not been able to find a donor.

While the Florida Blood Service has set up several open blood drives over the next few days in different parts of Tampa Bay, anyone around the country can help this weekend by going to ANY blood bank or bloodmobile donor drive and being tested to see if theya re a match for Katia's bone marrow. Being tested to be donor is easy and fast. Simply advise whichever blood bank you visit that you are testing for Katia A. Solomon, and they will take a small vial of blood from you, and that's it. You'll be notified in a week or two if you are a match, depending on how many tests are sent to the lab.



9/26/03 -- Myron Solomon will be busy with arrangements during the day, but will be partially available for phone interviews for radio 9/26/03, and possibly for television by mid-day. When Myron is not available, he asks that you call the family's media contact, Tony Panaccio, who is authorized to make statements in the family's absence. Color photographs of Katia, who is currently at All Children's Hospital, will be made available to the media.

9/27/03 -- Myron Solomon will be at the Tampa Convention Center blood drive sporadically throughout the day on Saturday, while family spokesperson Panaccio will be available for the entire event. Color photographs of Katia will be made available to any media who attend that event.

9/29/03 -- Selected Williams Middle School students will be available to display their cards, letters and well wishes for Katia, whose cousin David Miller, is a student at the school. As he is under 17 years old, he is prevented from being a donor, but has chosen to work toward his cousin's recovery through marshaling the forces of the Williams student body to send homemade cards and letters to Katia, who loves receiving mail.

Direct contact for Myron Solomon: (813) 249-4279

Media Contact for family: Tony Panaccio



[Yellow Light]The news sites have pretty much gone to town on the CrossGen situation. There's a few unmopped pieces.

Last week, I talked about a "brand new day" being announced on CrossGen's answerphone, for September the 17th. Matt Brady at Newsarama noticed how familiar that date was compared to the financial paperwork that had been going around the net - that Mark Alessi injected an undisclosed amount of money into the company on the same day.

The address of the Web site Brady refers to, and which has been passed round all the "confidential" areas of the comics web, is http://www.floridaucc.com/pls/ucc/


And you can read the specific documents in question by clicking here.

The interpretation goes that there were no replacement investors found when their expected investor pulled out, and that Mark stepped up himself, although to a smaller, personal, degree. This is what led to the redundancies, salary cuts, employment changes and resignations. He did, however, put up CrossGen's assets, including intellectual rights, against the loan.

So what happens next? There are, of course, conflicting rumours.

Some see this as the first in a series of layoffs. And that the redundancy packages won't be as generous next time. Especially since some permanent staff have become freelance.

Some see this as a temporary blip until the movie money comes in. Writer Chuck Russell talks about the CrossGen movies he's working on; "I have become immersed in the CrossGen properties, without trying to do anything within one brand, I'm doing a couple different genres of CrossGen projects. Right now, for 'Way of the Rat' I've just finished writing the screenplay for DreamWorks...And if you're familiar with these other CrossGen properties, 'The Path', which is an amazing period samurai adventure, and a project called 'Scion,' which is a really terrific futuristic sci-fi piece. These aren't superhero properties, per se, they happen to come from comics, they have really amazing very literary roots, in my opinion, strong genre roots, and they're just wonderful properties."

(There's more in that report BTW. Stan Lee's 'Hef's Superbunnies,' Hayter's 'Watchmen,' William Goldman's 'Shazam'… but back to the Gen.)

The idea is that CrossGen has been reduced to a size where it can afford to stay in business, not go bankrupt and keep things ticking over nicely.

Then there's the one that interprets all this information into one big theory.

That CrossGen's output will be significantly downsized. That the "Sigil" theme will be removed so they are all stand-alone books. Once certain books are finalised, they will be let go, leaving a small, dedicated team working on the books, with freelancer backup. And that when the real movie money comes in, the company may have already folded - with Mark Alessi securing rights to all properties due to his extended loans to the company. And because the company has been split up into a number of different companies, any money owed from the publishing arm need not be paid by the licensing arm.

That one may well be far fetched. But it's one to watch out for.

Or maybe it's just that Mark Alessi has learnt from what happened to Brian Pulido at Chaos. More on that to come.


[Green Light]With the possibility of the fall of CrossGen, what better way to revive Now Comics? A plan has been in works for a while, but very recently an appeal for venture capital went out to a Chicago mailing list recently from a certain Tony Caputo - the original publisher of the company.

Looks like he's trying to put the band back together.

The plans are for a Los Angeles office to complement the current Chicago operation, in 2005.


[Yellow Light]When Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb return to "Batman," they will feature the return of Harvey Dent, Two-Face.


[Red Light]I have been informed that headhunters have been looking for a new President at Marvel. Haven't they got enough of those by now you ask? Well yes, that's the thing. It appears it's for the publishing division, which would either mean further competition for Bill Jemas or replacement come January.

The word is they're looking for someone outside comics. It appears the usual suspects aren't interested.


[Green Light]No LITG is complete without exclusive preview pages. And here's some from "Walking Dead" 1 from Image, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore.


[Yellow Light]One Gutterati writes to report on a meeting with Phil Jiminez. Jiminez was discussing the much-anticipated "New X-Men" 150 and dropped a few teasers. That Charles Xavier will not die in 150, nor Emma, Jean or Scott. Grant Morrison has been trying to get Marvel editors to commit to the lasting changes he does to Scott's character in 154 are not undone and that he is written this way from now on.

Apparently the entire point of the run from Grant's perspective has been to get Scott to loosen up. And despite the success of "X2," Marvel has made no edicts regarding preserving Scott and Jean's relationship.

Phil's take is that Scott and Jean's relationship ended in issue 141/142. And that they are only still together because that is all they know.

Y'know, I really like "New X-Men." I'm going to miss it…


[Yellow Light]The Chaos! bankruptcy auction is due to take place on Wednesday. However, there have been some doubts expressed by interested parties into what is actually being sold, and their concerned the Trustee hasn't been clear in this regard. Certain people have certain questions they'd like answered.

Does Barbara Hughes, wife of artist Steven Hughes, have a copyright interest if anyone tries to reprint "Evil Ernie?"

Did Brian Pulido retain copyright to all the stories he wrote or co-wrote - all 200 plus of them?

Did Chaos! let trademarks lapse?

Just how complete and ordered are the back issue materials and films?

Why does Brian Pulido, not Chaos! Comics, seem to own the Evil Ernie trademark?

To what extent were contracts used for independent contractors in the last two years of operating, and is there a risk of copyright exposure?

Are these questions being raised now, so soon to the auction, in order to create a sense of doom and gloom and hopefully bring the prices down?


[Green Light]Before I left for South Africa, I reported a story about Chuck Austen's reliance on dictating scripts after a problem with his tendon. It seems a lot more complex than that.

Apparently the voice recognition system didn't work out. As to Chuck's condition, I was told "he's had it for years, but did not know what it was, doctors told him it was probably tendonitis or a pulled tendon, but it had been getting progressively worse, until around May/June it got unbearable and he went for a MRI scan. Turned out that a bone spur had developed on his left clavicle and had completely severed the rotator cuff tendon, rendering the muscles that attached themselves to the bone useless. He had what's called 'encapsulitis' or 'frozen joint,' and the shoulder would no longer move, requiring surgery.

"In June, he had it operated on. It was non-invasive, orthoscopic surgery. But still, it caused a lot of pain afterwards as it was healing, he was totally drugged up on painkillers for a while there, and he had to undergo extensive physical therapy. When I saw him in San Diego, though, he proudly displayed how his arm was nearly as good as new, minus small scars on the front and back of his shoulder."

The column sends its support and well wishes to Chuck.


[Green Light]I understand that Jimmy Cheung, hot off the presses from CrossGen, may be taking art roles for an Avengers project very shortly.


[Green Light]Remember all that UK excitement that Marvel UK might be publishing the last issue of "JLA/Avengers" before it came out in the USA? Not to be. The UK reprint of the first issue is to be pushed back two issues to issue 35 of Avengers Unlimited. The in-house ads are yet to catch up, however.


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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