This is the fifty-fourth weekly episode of Lying In The Gutters, the industry's premier rumour column and gossip sheet. At all times, remember the rumour rules. Red light means it's probably bullshit, Yellow light means I think there's an element of truth and Green means you get bet your life on it. Or someone's life. Not mine, I've been wrong before. Take everything you read with a sticky toffee pudding and if you do repost information here elsewhere, please include a warning to that effect. And a link. Man does not live by hits alone - but I could do with the attention. I blame George Bush. It saves time.
UPDATE - 7/10/03 - MARVEL KNIGHTS DEAL CLOSED DOWN, NANCI TO LEAVE MARVEL
I understand that, as part of a long-planned operation, that Event Comics, the company formed by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, that provided Marvel Knights material to Marvel, will no longer do so.
The imprint itself will still exist, as will the Marvel titles defined by it, but the "heavyweighted" advance payments creators received on Marvel Knights titles will no longer be available.
This is partially seen as a reaction to the Epic Comics deal, where creators receive an "underweighted" advance payment in return for higher royalties dependent on sales.
As a result, editor Nanci Dakesian who is a) employed by Event Comics and b) Joe Quesada's wife will no longer be able to work on the titles, under Marvel's reules over nepotism. She will remain at Marvel, however, until the end of the year.
I understand that Nanci has already been interviewed at DC for an editorial role. Some industry observers have seen this possibility as a way of putting a new spark into the DC/Marvel rivalry.
UPDATE - 7/10/03 - RICH JOHNSTON, MARVEL WHORE
After shilling the Princess Diana/X-Statix story into media outlets the world over, Rich Johnston now does the same for the Hulk.
On Sunday at 7.15pm on FIVE, British TV watchers can see the hairy rumour monger doing a talking head role in INDESTRUCTIBLE: THE HULK STORY, a promo puff piece for the movie, due to be released here. Word of warning - this programme was recorded in April - when I was two stone heavier and bore more of a resemblance to Harry Knowles. Oh, and Hulk Hands are involved...
FELICIA TALKS, THE INTERNET LISTENS
"I don't know any other way to start this very revealing article, other than to once again point to the source of much speculation and controversy in comics: Bill Jemas.
"Surfing the Internet the last two weeks, I've seen many publicly bash Bill for managing Marvel the way he has to this point. I've seen almost as many come to his defence. What I want to attempt to do with this column is try to point out what should be the bulls eye of your collective anger and/or questioning. I've seen people resort to either crediting or discrediting him when it comes to things like "Marville," "Origin," "Namor" and other projects of his. But most of these things are the by-product of a philosophy that Bill shares alone. It is this same philosophy that is the root from which all these creations or abominations (your pick) stem from, such as the belief that he is capable of writing the entire Marvel line-up if given the proper tools and people to work with. This is about Bill Jemas' stance on the comic market, as it exists today.
"The first thing I would adamantly like to make clear is that Bill Jemas' view of comics is not that of an established, respectable means capable of attaining it's deserved public acclaim. He has attempted, through past efforts, to help 'validate comics' by approximating them as close as possible to the other magazines in newsstands. Larger in size, change of paper quality and density and even the art, in his eyes, should be produced in a photoshopesque manner in order to achieve an illusion with the ultimate means of mimicking the look and feel of 'real skin' portrayed in periodicals such as Maxim and Stuff. Some of these efforts have failed when attempted, yet others are still practiced or underway.
"The problem with this, of course, is that comics are not these magazines. They have, in the opinion of many, been the product of the labor of long lineage of intellects who breathed the life and culture already existing in the flame that we know today. To try and change or rearrange the configuration of this flame into some kind of money-making based scheme for simple marketing appeal and perspective, a very shallow and skewed one at that, is to say or to the least hint that the geniuses that laid out the foundation of comics, men and women of legend, were simply the gears and cogs not necessarily consequential to the product which resulted in the medium and base market that supports it today.
"The shameless, utter disrespect and lack of acknowledgment towards both ends of the spectrum that is this medium is evident in Bill Jemas' attitude both towards creators and fans. There are countless stories of irrationality on Bill's part that I cite involving creators who were unfairly treated or taken advantage of. These same creators have sometimes spoken out only to be shot down by the very people who should listen to what they have to say. The same goes towards the disfavor Jemas' does his fans by mocking them, sometimes publicly, and citing their differences as a small aberration pertinent to a minimal demographic that would not in anyway so much as put a dent in their decision making process, less have any impact on their sales, long term or short.
"In addition to this, there are several other factors and efforts already in motion revolving around the attempts to change the face of comics (at least at Marvel). However, the main change of which all these decisions are influenced by is so grand scale, that it will be gradually and cunningly executed under the public exterior of a sound marketing stratagem. Good for business that is, like the firing of Waid.
"I'd like for you to take into consideration a fact that isn't popularly known by fans and maybe a few creators: Marvel's total base income from their publishing division accounts for an average or nearly 5% of total current income. This means that they are currently making most of their money from things such as licensing and movies. This also means that, comics, the very lifeblood of the previous two, from a financial perspective is nearly irrelevant for the economic potency the company currently possesses. Which is the reason why Marvel's owners, Isaac Perlmutter and/or Avi Arad, are looking into either: A) Shutting the publishing branch down completely and simply license property out or B) Selling the company, all of it's intellectual property to either Universal or Sony.
"The concern here, for those who may not completely grasp the effects or repercussions that may result from either of these two, should be identified immediately as the fact that one of these will most likely keep the comic book industry alive and the other will not.
"In the event that Marvel does sell to Universal or Sony, it will have the backing of a powerful corporate giant, just as DC with AOL/Time-Warner, and a potential comics depression of the 21st century, if any, may and most likely will be adverted. This much is blatant.
"However, in the event that Marvel is unsuccessful in selling it's very valuable company to either of these two, or should the owners decide to tight-fistedly clench on to what they so rightfully acquired years ago, they will (are) considering the very real possibility of shutting down the publishing arm that has survived decades and near death as it struggled more than once to return as the prominent flag ship that it is now. Yes, this means no more Marvel comics. The end of titles like "Spider-Man," "X-Men" and "Daredevil." Or is it?
"Should Marvel decide to go down this shady path of uncertainty, it may be likely that the cornerstone which is the life of the company, its very blood, can crumble in waves of exiting disappointed fans of all kinds, new and old, supporters and bashers of the current Marvel. Though the loss of income, even 5%, may perhaps sound as a far-fetched concept for skeptics reading this, it is a fact that the owners themselves do not understand the mechanics and inner workings of publishing and why it is necessary in the continued long-term success of the company. Thus, if they see the publishing arm as nothing more than a headache, then it should be understandable why they would want to sever it. Although, if and when this happens, it will not necessarily mean the immediate demise of the company. The next Marvel bankruptcy will occur most likely under the condition that its movies start tanking and interest is lost in its licensing. This is somewhat unlikely, but still within the realm of reality as though these characters have become iconic, they have still, nonetheless become the money making movie phenomenon only and exclusively due to the fact that the comic books have existed to date.
"There are two people that may understand this more than anyone, and they are both at Marvel: Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada. Both men have been successful at convincing the owners that the publishing branch, despite its heavy investment in both money, time and risk venture, is completely crucial to the continued long-term success of licensing and movies. However, the interpretation of what the publishing branch should be, in theory, from both men, are two opposing ideals.
"Joe Quesada, or at least the original Joe Quesada, believed in the simple science that if the best creators were put on the best books, Marvel would deadlock a secure future in outputting both A) good stories, good books resulting in a healthy publishing division and B) good ideas, especially in terms of the future, where giants like Sony and Universal would come to Marvel as the elite think tank and house of ideas for their current property and future property or property that yet doesn't exist. Item B would be crucial towards the implementation of an engine that would secure wealthy financial future for the company. However, in this industry, views often collide. And since Marvel is at the heart of this industry, one could almost anticipate the inevitability of the following or the plan that is already in motion.
"Bill Jemas has subscribed to completely unconventional ideals, a religion if you will, of how to go about cementing the future of Marvel. In order to cut down on what, in his opinion, may be unnecessary expenses of both time and money and in an effort to admonish risk venture in individual titles, Bill is planning to slowly, but surely, replace every highly paid, respected creator, every talent that may be a 'headache' or may not hand in work on a timely fashion, but is still popular, every writer, artist or employee that may perhaps be a burden more than a blessing, financially or any other way, with an individual who will not be a required element or investment in their future and will have no interest in the full market potential of intellectual property. In other words, he wants people that will sell out cheap or at least people that they can milk for ideas.... and they are finding them.
"There are several or a mixture of tactics in effect to make this happen. I've cited Epic being part of this movement, but there is also a degree of 'good marketing decisions' that play into this. For those of you who made a fuss about the firing of Waid, you did so for whatever reasons, but none more so than the fact that instinctually, something about this didn't sit well, perhaps because you've been around since the last Marvel catastrophe or long before. Still, your gut just told you and in my opinion, you were and still are right if you believe none of it was blown out of proportion. A few weeks ago, some complaining about the Waid situation turned their heads and silenced in light of this new intriguing person that was going to take the reigns of FF. What you just witnessed happen is the collective shift of interest in one known creator to one practically unknown. This may not be the last time you see this.
"Why would Jemas play this risky game of replacing everyone? Well, as I mentioned, Bill hasn't respect for comics as its own medium. And sadly, he sees comics as nothing more but an advertising gimmick for the real money maker: movies. If this is hard to believe, ask any ex-marvel employee (if you know one). Politely request for them to be sincere and possibly as unbiased as possible in telling you this truth.
"If Jemas has his way, what will result in these books is a slew of generic art and story telling that will pummel Marvel back into the age where they did this the first time. The previous age of Marvel bankruptcy, where what readers got was uninteresting art and writing from unknowns, rehashing of old plots, frivolous stories that shattered established story continuity which turned the reader off causing just about every last fan walk out. However, the new twist for this century's bankruptcy, and what Bill is deliberately planning is the generalization of all art (all art should look the same) and writing (supervised and controlled by Bill), impractical new twists (from new creators with a fresh take on the Marvel Universe) to the rehashing of old plots and even more frivolous breaks in story continuity that will turn off a whole other generation of Marvel readers including the repented wave of fans who will once again lament and walk out the door.
"But Bill too is also aware of this possibility. Bill isn't as dumb as this looks. Which, as he has been doing so far, is only gradual transition towards this outcome. Testing the waters first and seeing how the fans react. In all fairness, I believe him and this plan capable of rolling with required momentum up until the point where the last good creator(s) have been replaced or eliminated. What I don't believe, and many others who work within the industry, is that this plan will bode over well in the long run. In theory, replacing everyone with cheaper versions of themselves seems to be a good idea, but there are outside factors that are not being considered or may not be getting enough attention.
"Fans will still want the 'Waids,' and with exceptions of creators who Marvel will deem more valuable (the last to get the boot from Marvel), these creators will go over to DC, Image or Dark Horse who will be waiting for them with arms wide open. A large portion of loyal fans will shift their weight in that direction as well. And though perhaps, the new faces at Marvel may, through some form of intrigue, quite possibly build their own fan bases, if they too should become just as popular as the fore mentioned, it is rational to think that they too will want to be paid just as much as they are worth, which should be completely understandable, but counter productive to what Bill Jemas will have then vainly been attempting. In which case, he will be forced to once again fire a creator and hire a new, cheaper one. Thus the cycle will ensue. And if Bill is planning to cycle an infinite barrage of new creators on books, the above mentioned about fans following their creators will happen in an even greater scale.
"However, another factor may well be that if Marvel is successful in ditching their beloved creators, and keeping their new creators at a very cheap price, DC and the like could quite possibly follow in the steps of this comics giant. After all, if Marvel is making just as much money, or even more by doing this, why should they too burden themselves with dishing out the big bucks to keep these respected creators working? Couldn't they just do the same? In theory they could. Hopefully they won't.
"Still, that future may be further down the road than anyone could postulate. Bill Jemas' attempts may only backfire a year or several from now. But by that time all the pieces will be put in place, and it will be too late for you, the fan, new or old, to do something about it. The rock and the hard place everything is sitting between is the desire of the owners to shut down publishing and to license out and Bill Jemas' blueprint of how to maintain the publishing division open but at a much lower cost. Where you come in is whether or not you will accept either of these two. Would you care if tomorrow Marvel stopped printing comics, and still go watch the movies they make and buy the toys? Will you care if your favorite creators are replaced with clones from other mediums and puppeted by Bill in an effort to manufacture or mass-produce creativity for advertisement purposes? If you went to see the next "X-men" or "Hulk" movie regardless of the decision to close publishing, then perhaps there is really no need for the publishing arm, and comics as we know it are doomed. If you would buy a comic that is now made at some generic level and more so exists simply to propel you into the seat of the next "X-men" or "Hulk" movie, then perhaps there is no need for creators of the books we buy, and comics as we know it are doomed. Which one of these would you prefer? Is there a lesser of two evils here?
"Let's see. If publishing shuts down, there would be some seriously dreaded consequences coming. Primarily, comic shops all across America dedicated to bringing you these valuable gems will immediately lose more than half of their business. And if they lose more than half of their business they lose more than half of their income. At this point, it is reasonable to understand that when they close, they will be doing so because they have no other choice. At a skeptical level, one could go as far as saying that the creators will still create a level of business elsewhere, such as DC, Image or something independent and enough so as to cushion the impact of losing nearly or more than half the market. In fact, DC and others may enjoy a level of growth from their newfound source of power if and when many leave Marvel. But we are talking about an event that will occur before or after the fact this all happens. In scenario A) Marvel will shut down publishing before they finish their transition causing the direct market to lose more than 50% of business. In scenario B) Marvel may be unsuccessful at siphoning interest from old popular creators to new intriguing ones, expanding a new fan base, will shut down publishing anyway, and will cause the direct market to lose about or more than 50% of its business (assuming Marvel still holds this share of the market) after the fact that everyone has already moved to DC, Image, Dark Horse or go independent. So if you can see, though scenario A seems as more solid in causing its consequences, scenario B potentially still holds the same risk.
"In A, we have an abrupt act by someone in power, and the result stated will most definitely happen. In B, it could happen and most likely will if fans do not take kindly to the replacement of nearly or either all of their favorite creators. But also reconsider the fact that if Jemas makes scenario B successful, it may be only temporary. After all, as I previously said, how long before DC decides that they should do the same thing Marvel is doing? Why not milk DC property as well for what is really worth and make more money now than we may or may not make later? This can happen. Is it a likelier possibility? I suppose it would depend on whether AOL/Time-Warner gives a damn. As someone pointed out to me, since when do they care what Marvel does? But also consider the fact that, if merchants shut down as a direct loss of nearly half of their business, where will DC, Image and others sell their comics?
"In addition, if this nightmare comes true, there are other things that will come to an end, as a result of anything even remotely similar to this happening. You can kiss publications that revolve around comics like Wizard goodbye. Really? Well you can if they are impacted by merchants across America shutting down. Who will sell Wizard? Perhaps they can shift everyone over to subscriptions. Maybe if they lay off half their staff they may find a way. Also, forget about those lovely comic conventions and adios to at least a few of those online communities many of you participate in that revolves around your favorite comic, comic creator or comic news. I think even Rich, who's been very generous and understanding towards me and my motives, will be out of a job or at least a past time. Do you get paid for this Rich? Just wondering.
"One thing is for sure: Personally, I have nothing to gain from revealing this. I've received lots of words in praise just as much as in anger. I've seen your posts on the message boards, both from those who wish me well to those who'd love to see me get caught. But to highlight to you, in case some of you may not really understand... I am only the messenger and came here under this circumstance. I came here months ago to tell you what was happening inside Marvel as far as a level of corrupt behavior that may affect you, but learned of this information instead as I carefully analyzed the facts. Still, though many of you are thinking this all sounds very farfetched, it isn't. Just pay attention carefully to how Marvel responds to this. If i can't convince you of this truth, then it's very depressing. If you discover the legitimacy of this, then it is also just as depressing. However, I'll point out to you that there is a silver lining and a message of hope attached: There is something you can do. But in order to do something about it, you have to believe that there is something you can do.
"The first step, I would tell most of you not to bash Bill Jemas. I've done this myself just recently and in the past, but it is online that I learned this will work against you. If you are going to post topics of inquiry and comments regarding any of this, you should do so in the most respectful way you can. Otherwise, angry sentiments will stifle any possible movement that we may be able to start. I would humbly beg you to do this, and furthermore I kindly ask you to resist any temptation to relieve and vent your frustrations online or via email in a disrespectful fashion. This will only be counterproductive.
"The second step is to in fact spread the word. I'm not saying to go post happy, and to crash the comics Internet for another 3 days (though I see this happening again), but to talk about it mostly in verbatim to friends and comic shop owners. Especially these merchants who, I would challenge to seek out the validity to any of this, and brace themselves starting from now. Maybe they can create a backup plan to save their businesses. Just talk. However, when and if you do this, also please do so in the most polite way possible keeping in mind that this is a delicate issue that worries everyone. I know I may not even have to tell you to do so, but if you believe this, any of this in the slightest, then you should also believe me when i say expressing your feelings to your comic shop owners in a positive fashion will influence this situation in a positive way thereby helping us get positive results.
"Third is, fans should make the utmost effort to act and band together as one. I was glad to see the initial response when many learned of what happened with Waid. I saw an interesting thread that was started by someone in an attempt to collect signatures to keep Waid on FF. When I last looked, the signatures where a few short of 600. Why? Why people, after all that fuss online did we only manage to get under 600 signatures on that thread? Many of you may think that this is just about getting Waid back on the book, but I challenge the creator of that thread to state that it also had nothing to do with showing Marvel that we could move collectively, because we can. And if fans are going to band together to save comics on this one, then as their first act of their newfound organization, they should find no excuse but to have that petition swamped, not in the hundreds but in the thousands. I say whether or not you believe that petition will bring Waid back to FF, you should sign it. It is not just a document requesting a creator, it is a symbol of our ability to move together as one. I saw earlier this week one of Marvel's newfound lapdogs bark out belittlement and cynicism at the fact that Bill Jemas had once again defeated the fans. This is not true and is nothing more than an attempt to extinguish whatever potential in your influence remains in terms of book sales after FF #509. I will not sit here and tell you not to buy it. I will not sit here and tell you to buy it. You shouldn't or no one should do things they are told to do. I think most agree with that. However, i would urge you, in light of this revelation, to go out to your comic shop when #509 (Waid's last issue) comes out and do what you think is best. I would also urge you to do the same when the issue that follows (#510 perhaps) with the new 'writer,' to do what you think is best.
"Another smart thing to do, from now on, is not to lump Bill and Joe into the same cake. If anyone understood the nature of what was happening within that company, you would not hate Joe for the reasons you hate Bill. Separate the two. Bill has successfully managed to syphon both popularity and power from Joe. He's become a controlling symbiote of the Bill & Joe entity that has put them in the same boat before the eyes of many of you. Remember when Marvel started over again, who was the one person you constantly heard about? Give that person back the power to do something about it. This is not to discredit anyone of deserving merit, but look back in history about 2 or 3 years. Study what has happened. Discuss it amongst each other. Let Marvel know what you think. However, again, in the most respectful way possible. Just force Bill to acknowledge that the walls of that company are now transparently clear or clearer than they were when he was trying to pull his numbers. Joe can opt out of this control being forced on him if he wants, but if he chooses not to there is a group of people that should wield more weight in the decisions that are made over there than any one person. Editors. Also, ask to hear more from editors, in cons, online and in books. You want to hear from the likes of these editors that are the only thing keeping or at least trying to keep that company honest right now. If you don't know their names, get to know them. Open your favorite Marvel comic and write their name down somewhere. Someone start a thread somewhere and list their names. We, as fans, need to remember the days when these editors weren't just a name in the credits, but a personality that took life in the letters column somewhere in the back of a comic. Open your books and make a mental note of the names of these people. By shifting your attention to them, you will give them more of an ability to help with this situation, rather than abandoning it as a ship which some think is inevitably going to sink. Make their opinions matter mre at the next meeting, when Bill gathers everyone around for their weekly tongue lashing. Because once this generation of editors is gone, i can guarantee you that it will be that much more difficult, nearly impossible to help make changes in Marvel plans and policy.
"Also, creators should be asked by their fans to look into this. And I don't mean by making them call Marvel. There is a level of discreetness required here in order to ascertain the truth. And if anyone has any information in regards to any of this, please see to it that the proper information is given to the proper people, or those who have the loudest and most effective voices in comics.
"And editors, without revealing myself, I would urge you to make whatever valid efforts you could now, especially in light of the fact that now everyone or most everyone knows what is happening. Now that fans know the truth, attempt to muster whatever remaining strength and courage in you to help both Marvel and Bill realize that there is a grave error in the decision making process currently being practiced, and that morale is, despite any morale boosting meeting, indeed is not what it should be. Nor will it become what they want it to be so long as editorial is suppressed. Remember the times before any of you became editors? What you thought the job would hold in store for you? How you looked forward to making the decisions you thought you were going to make or can the most senior of you recall the time when your jobs were actually fun? Now is the time to either do something or nothing about it. This is a window of opportunity, small as it may be, to change the course of events that can very well lead to the demise of comics. This company is a comic company. Not just a movie think-tank. Not just a licensing of intellectual property company. Comics. That's what brought all of you together. That is what brought all of us together. You are the first and last line of defence in helping deter the disaster that will possibly and most likely occur if Bill Jemas is allowed to do things his way.
"And Bill, I know somewhere deep down, there is a part of you that means well. But all this reeks of a conspiracy. One that is against everyone, but you and the owners of this company. Against your employees, creators, merchants and fans. I know there is nothing I can do to stop you. Maybe you have taken more power away from the editors just recently. But at least listen to the fans, who not so much want to manipulate what kind of stories Marvel tells, but simply want the caliber of loyalty they have invested in you returned in the form of good comics, in nothing more than the respectable medium that it exists as today. I don't believe you can force the comics market to expand using these tactics you have at hand. Have you stopped to think that maybe comics weren't meant to be the gigantic industry that you want them to be? And if they do have that potential, do you honestly think you can force it grow faster than it naturally would? Please tread carefully. We do not want one sole person to be the death of something so sacred that's existed for so long. In fact, there is nothing more that we want, like you, than a successful Marvel to help pave the way and generate a stimulus for smaller companies. Because what are you gonna do in the event that Marvel tanks due to this warped leadership? Maybe you'll resign and walk away as you haven't much to lose since you pulled out with your stock, and you'll point the finger at the very people who told you this was going to happen. I'm not alleging you of having committed anything illegal, I'm simply pointing out the level of confidence in your company's future. And how far your sincerity goes with this respect. You may not have to be 100% forthcoming with us, heck that is what presidents of companies usually are about these days. Still, we want a Marvel as close to honesty as it can get. We're ready to follow this company wherever it may go, so long as it's not over a cliff. We don't want fake comics. We don't want to be taken advantage of. We want what we give you in return. We want you to listen to your "mindless robots" and acknowledge what the word "editor" means. Overall, we are going to be wanting to hear more from them than you, or possibly even Joe (Not Bill behind a Joe mask), who from what I understand, due to this, may have his days numbered at Marvel. Still, we will be watching. Now more than ever.
"And fans, remember, this isn't just about bashing Marvel. This is about a greater picture that still many will refuse to see even after they have read this. This is about being able to act on information, and helping save a company that is in all of our hearts. Don't listen to me if it satisfies your speculation as to why I am even hiding to begin with. But at least study the facts carefully before you act or publicly speak out. If none of this is true and all of it is just something someone made up to feel good about themselves, then Bill, Marvel and you really have nothing to worry about. Still, there is a trail of breadcrumbs you can follow. Find it and just follow it.
"This is my last act as a thorn in the side of Bill. After this, I will no longer make any efforts to help curb the events that will occur within the next year. I leave what I said for you to act upon or not. If you see that the events unfolding fall into the criteria of the circumstance I have painted for you, do your best to try and find the truth of the matter. If you find out it is true, using your own means, then use your intellect and instinct on how to counter this chain of events. There are more things you can do to help aside from the things i mentioned. Collectively, you may come up with a better answer that may solve or help the problem at hand. And if you don't take action, not so much because you don't want to, but feel that this may not be true or can't come to accept that you can still change this, well... I tried. But analyze the facts. Don't be quick to judge and pay attention to actions whether in the form of responses or future business decisions. They say more than words coming from Marvel or even me, they speak truth. And truth is all I want you to know and all you want to know yourself. Keep a close eye on dovetails, as they are a good indicator of very deep rabbit holes. When you hear similar statements come from the mouth of more than one person, look into it and at least compare and contrast. Search for motive or special interests in everyone's part, see if they qualify as people that haven't much to gain from what they are telling you. It is those that have to least to gain from what they say that are being the most honest. It is those who have the most to lose in this that should be questioned and analyzed for loopholes. And prepare to hear the most sophisticated routine in answer to this you have ever heard. And in the event that you should buy into it, remember that, with all due respect, you were warned.
"Good luck to Marvel and their employees and all the creators and fans. I would love to say it's been a pleasure doing this, but it hasn't. Thank you for listening.
BILL JEMAS TALKS, REVEALS SOFTER SIDE
Bill Jemas has been talking on X-Fan's Creator confidential section. In response to a number of questions, he gives some replies of interest particularly to LITG readers;
"People that I've never met type a lot of stuff about me in the fan press and on the boards. They make up all of this stuff that they say is going on in my mind: 'Jemas tries to get people upset on purpose' or 'Jemas hates retailers.'
"I think it's because of the way I think and speak - very simple terms, very direct statements. Some people dislike that, and they complain.
"I just don't get upset emotionally when people complain about things like that.
"For three years, now, I've been saying that 'the books sucked.' And that is the kind of simple (oversimplified) statement that gets some people ****** off (the people who have been loyally and happily writing, drawing and reading comics since the 1980's.)
"So let me rephrase - starting with the one clear fact - the decrease in sales means that millions of people who used to read comics have found things to buy that make them happier than reading comics did - and that sucks.
"All kinds of people have all kinds of explanations for the fact… Such as explosions in alternative media from DVD's to Web sites, mass exodus of mass-market retailers etc.
"My explanation is attached to an actionable and practical solution. Start to write the kinds of stories that those millions of people used to like to read. When we get our mojo working, people will beat a path to our door. That's my story - I'm sticking to it.
"In a long-term situation where the general manager(s) are calling lots of shots, you either have a profoundly bad situation of a problem with the general manager.
"Take Chris Claremont and Salvador Larocca on 'X-Treme X-Men.' Chris and Salva were doing a great job - that was a good situation and there was no need for anybody to manage that team.
"But, that team has been working as part of Marvel publishing and, overall, Marvel publishing has had some profoundly bad problems.
"We did a bad job of planning 'Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra.' We started that book way too late, and found ourselves desperate to find an Ultimate-style artist in a hurry
"We had done a bad job of recruiting artists, so we did not have a deep talent pool to draw upon.
"So I had to call a shot and Salva was moved to 'Ultimate DD' - breaking up a great team on a working book. Moving Salva to Namor was a somewhat different story that followed the same pattern.
"When you never hear the names Joe & Bill (except promoting new projects) then you'll know we know how to run the place."
"We do work as a team and try to play to our own strengths and each other's weaknesses - which are very different - which is why I asked Joe to be EIC.
"I'm good at noticing little systems that might radiate up into a new product or production technique and have a knack for picking up cultural patterns and translating them into basic story structure. Joe is not good at that, but he is great at the rest of the editorial package - from recruiting to leading, from writing and public speaking to graphics."
STILL WITH US? GOOD.
It is Lying In The Gutter's position that overall, on the scale of things, Bill Jemas has been good for Marvel. Just. That there have been some shocking judgments made, direction that have been taken too far, unproven ideas becoming rules and horror stories from a number of creators that can't be defended. There has been lies, deceit, hypocrisy, bad management and poor people skills. Hell, I hear that Bill Jemas now feels that "Origin" would have been much better if he'd written it all himself.
But as a whole, many of Marvel's books are improved in quality, and what sales increases there have been, have been based on that. Series have been given time to find an audience. Risks have been taken, new approaches sought and attempts to increase the appeal of the medium taken. How much of that is Bill, how much is Joe, how much is down to the many talented staff members at Marvel, is unknown. And, yes, of late, Bill seems to be overdoing it quite a bit.
But remember the Marvel there was just before New Marvel happened, aside from Ultimates and Marvel Knights… and shudder.
As for the Paul Jenkins off "Spider-Man" story that Jenkins vehemently denied last week, it couldn't have been a Marvel authorised leak to track down the source of their mole, could it? If so, it didn't work - as I'd heard the story from a number of pro sources. Is the conclusion that Marvel is more like a colander these days? If so, they're not alone - DC's started to get a little on the leaky side as well… keep reading…
HE READS COMICS.
We've heard the rumours that a Captain America film is being made, based on the character as he appears in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's The Ultimates.
Sky News, part of Rupert Murdoch's evil news gathering organisation who think a news story is cobbling a piece together from a week-old Daily Mail and Guardian articles and still spelling my name wrong and misquoting me, are reporting that Brad Pitt has signed to play the title role.
Talking about delegating creative chores, the licensing of "Spawn" comics by Top Cow is currently under discussion. If it happens, expect for an announcement at San Diego.
A Brazilian Alan Moore fansite has recently interviewed Mark Millar. He writes about his upcoming series, "Chosen;"
"The most interesting person we're ever going to meet is what we perceive to be God. I find that an interesting subject because I was raised in that tradition and a lot of that stuff will also be appearing in my next creator-owned book, a three issue series called 'Chosem.' You'll hear about everything on 11th July when I make a big statement."
The same Web site has, among other things, 2 pages from the original "V For Vendetta" script.
EPIC UP A PENGUIN
Clearly I'm running out of 'Epic' headlines.
A number of Marvel editors have been approached about moving to Epic. None have chosen to do so. But with the Marvel Knights imprint being withdrawn in favour of new financial models, such as Epic, and anything that's not Epic and not in the Top Ten getting shrift treatment from marketing, some are considering moving where Marvel will at least be spending promotional efforts.
Not Axel Alonso though. He really is a man who can state his terms, upping his salary and treatment. Axel is still believed to be being groomed as Joe Quesada's eventual replacement, although some have been looking in Jim Krueger's direction.
But it's Axel's book "X-Statix" which (with a little media planting by yours truly) has been dominating the media. Articles in The Sun, on the BBC, in the New York Daily Post and more continue to flood in. And they all spell my name wrong…
CROUCHING AVATAR, HIDDEN BOOTH
This year, at San Diego, Avatar are playing Hunt-The-Booth. They've deliberately chosen one of the most obscure areas of the convention floor space, but are selling one of the hottest items there.
A special edition book leading into the new "Yuggoth" Alan Moore series starting in autumn (first mentioned in this very column).
The San Diego comic entitled "The Yuggoth Cultures NecroComicon" features an all-new cover by Jacen Burrows and pinups, design sketches, and pencil art from Burrows, Mike Wolfer, Marat Mychaels, Juan Jose Ryp, a sneak peek at Alan Moore and Bryan Talbot's "Nightjar" and a new essay from Antony Johnston. Most of this material will not be in the actual series, the book is limited to 4000 copies, so if Alan Moore fans don't get a copy of this, they're fucked.
Avatar will be at Booth #5202 - and will have signings, Free Comic Book Day giveways and the usual toss. If you can find them that is…
You'd better put me on the "Yuggoth" comp list on this William. Two copies, one for me, one for eBay.
THE REAL SMALLVILLE
Jon Bognadove's son has recently graduated high school and has won an $11,000 scholarship to Emerson College. His full name is Benjamin Kal-El Bogdanove, and he goes by the name Kal-El…
WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUB-GENRE
Referring to last week's mention of a new DC six series sci-fi line, with creators such as Steve Gerber and Jon Lewis, I've had a clarification that the focus isn't entirely sci-fi, rather real-world superheroes. Focussing on different wider genres that use the sub-genre of superheroes. Think "Astro City" and "Top Ten."
STRAY 100 BULLETS
I hear that David Lapham and Bill Seinkiewicz are collaborating on an arc for "Batman." Bill believes it's to follow Lee and Loeb's run, although Azzarello and Risso are already in the spot for that.
Anyway, expect it along the pipeline sometime soon.
I hear one titbit that penciller Ron Garney has just signed on with DC to do a brand new Superman monthly series with Kurt Busiek. Garney's pencilled covers will be painted over by Alex Ross.
When Marvel approached Alex Ross to do some new work for them, it appears he was initially open to the idea. Then Marvel gave him a list of what they considered A-list writers he could choose to work with. Ross' alleged response was "just because you think they're any good, doesn't mean I do."
ALAN MOORE AGED 49 3/4
Alan Moore recently wrote a very entertaining, informed and concise article on Gulf War II for issue 5 of arthur magazine. arthur is a free magazine, with a circulation of 40,000, featuring media and pop culture articles, lots of comic strip, cartoonist features and seemingly a new piece by Alan Moore every issue. Yet it's managed to avoid coverage from the likes of TCJ, CBG, Newsarama or Pulse.
The new issue about the war is a recommended read, for the Alan Moore article and much more. Click here to see for yourself. But here's a few quotes to get you on your way…
"Richard the Lionheart addresses his men with that Tony Blair weasel-in-a-slaughterhouse look in his eyes: 'Look, okay, I know there's always a conspiracy theory, but I can honestly say this is not about silk.'
"Around about this time, during the 1930s, Prescott Bush had made the family fortune through his business deals with the Third Reich (he was even able to make a gift of Hitler's dinner service to the Skull & Bones fraternity)
"That disaster happened at the 2000 U.S. elections, which many of us might have mistaken for an episode of 'The Dukes of Hazzard' if only there'd been a little banjo music playing in the background.
"Any previously unthinkable political action can be instantly validated by the magic words 9-11, in much the same way as Ariel Sharon's government in Israel can make horrific moral and humanitarian issues simply vanish by mentioning the Holocaust.
"He's the President of the United States. He can do whatever the fuck he likes. Isn't that what the job's all about? Doesn't it say that in, oh, the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or one of those other pieces of ass-wipe that he means to read if he ever finishes The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
"The Kurds get Kirkuk. The Turks get cross. AI Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, get a free recruitment drive. And I guess we'll just have to wait and see how many Tim McVeighs or John Mohammeds (both Gulf veterans) came home from the war with a party in their head this time round."
HEY KIDS! COMICS!
I hear that Shelly Bond, now Group Editor at Vertigo, is going to push of a Vertigo Kids line. Other sources have suggested it may be more of a "young adult" focus. Still, there is that incongrous L'il Endless children's book… with a Mature Readers label slapped on it.
Maybe this is a way to get Tim Hunter out of that oppressive label and onto the Harry Potter bandwagon?
It looks like J Scott Campbell is set to sign an exclusive deal with DC Comics. Look for an announcement at San Diego - as well as a whole bunch of exclusive deals DC are about to snap up across the board.
I hear that Grant Morrison is writing a screenplay called "Sleepless Knights" for Dreamworks SKG. No details…
This visual appeared on Dave Johnson's Web site for a couple of hours over the weekend, and then promptly disappeared. Not before I could right-click and save it though.
With Johnson leaving his staff job at Warner Animation, the success of "Red Son" (including one recorded sale over $50 for the first issue), could this be something for a new creator-owned book for the cover-artists of "100 Bullets?"
Yes, yes it could.
I HAVE NO EYES BUT I WILL SCALE WALLS BADLY
John Cassaday has posted the covers and a short blurb about Planetary 18 and 19 on his Web site:
PLANETARY 18: "THE GUN CLUB"
The game's afoot. Elijah Snow is building his own conspiracy to bring down the Four, and he's targetting William Leather first. But what does his plan, which entangles Anna Hark and John Stone, have to do with the first moonshot... in 1851?
Release date: December 2003
PLANETARY 17: "OPAK-RE"
In the 1930's, Elijah Snow was in the jungle. He was in search of the fabled city of Opak-Re, supposedly an ancient city of lost science deep in Africa. He finds more than he bargained for: another myth from this green hell at the heart of the world. The Englishman raised by apes, now returned as lord of this dark domain. Elijah Snow meets Lord Stephen Blackstock, who became one of Axel Brass' comrades and died in the Adirondacks at the end of World War Two. But this isn't his story, nor is it Elijah's. This is Jakita Wagner's story...
Release date: October 2003
He also posts an original image from "Planetary/Batman" before it was changed by DC editorial. The original image bore a stronger resemblance to the TV Show Batman, the published version lost the yellow circle and the visible eyes, replaced with a black-on-grey logo and black caverns for eyes instead.
Cassaday also teases with…
I AM LEGION: BOOK ONE
Written by Fabien Nuri, released by Humanoids Publishing.
Release date: December 2003
Chris Claremont has been answering his fans question over at X-Fan, the most fashionable place for creators to go off-message these days.
On his plans for Wolverine and Sabretooth; "Father and son. That's why Sabretooth (*my* incarnation, that is, not this 'Creed' poseur) always considered Logan 'sloppy seconds' to his 'original'/'real deal.' The other critical element in my presentation of their relationship was that, in their whole life, Logan has never defeated Sabretooth in a knock-down, drag-out, kill-or-be-killed berserker fight. By the same token, on every one of his birthdays, Sabretooth has always managed to find him, no matter where Logan was or what he was doing, and come within an inch of killing him. For no other reason than to remind him that he could."
On Mystique's father-son relationship with Nightcrawler; "Mystique abandoned him because she was totally freaked by this indigo-furred creature with 'deformed' appendages and a forked tail! At that point, Mystique had no idea (s)he was a mutant, or a metamorph; (s)he simply reacted as many normal folks would in similar circumstances. And in the process had something of a nervous breakdown, mental collapse. Which of course, was a whole other story that will never see print. (I do seem to have a lot of them.)"
Then "Actually, regarding "Mystique," I always considered her default form to be blue-skinned and female. However, being a full-spectrum metamorph (megamorph? Or would that only apply to shifters like the DC Durlans, hmmm?) gender for her is a matter of choice, convenience and necessity. Her assumption of the male gender during this particular period of her life relates more to the prejudices of the time. A male consulting detective is likely to be taken a tad more seriously in official circles than a woman. As for when Mystique and Irene got together, look at the back-story established in 'X-treme X-Men' #s 1 & 2; check out the fashions and the social culture in the visuals. There may even be a reference to Mystique's consulting detective serving as a template for a character renowned in late Victorian crime fiction, also involved with someone named Irene Adler.
"That said, of course, just because *I* established it doesn't mean that particular back-story -- or, for that matter, the events of 'True Friends' at all -- is considered part of the currently accepted Canon."
On writing more for "X-Men Unlimited"; "Stories for 'Unlimited' are the province of Editor C.B. Cebulski. If he wants any he knows where to find me. I've done what I can, which is let him know I'm interested and available. The ball's now in his court."
On the history between Jean and Professor X; "I did propose such a series: 'X-Men Year Zero,' to deal with the time-frame between Xavier losing his legs to the opening scene of 'X-Men' #1 (1963). It would go into the origins of his relationship with Sage, and Sebastian Shaw, his recruitment of Jean, their adventures together, back-story concerning Logan and his gradual decision to form the X-Men.
"Marvel chose to pass on the proposal."
DOUBLE THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
Those good people over at 411 Comics have been reporting that "Lucifer" 50 is to be a double-sized issue with all sorts of goodness and wonder, and art by P Craig Russell.
STALKING ON THE MOON
Moonstone is to publish a monthly "Kolchak, Night Stalker" series written by Mark Dawidziak and drawn by Andy Bennet. Kolchak is considered one of the more influential TV shows, directly preceding the X-Files genre. Other titles, such as a new "Silencers" series and other creator-owned books will follow.
During some concern over the right to Britons to automatically enter the USA during convention season at the Andy Diggle Forum, artist Mike Collins recalled, "....Or, as happened when me'n'Mark Farmer went over that first time, get into an argument about names...
"A guard pulled Mark over, checked his passport and said:
"'Farmer, eh? Do you have any dairy produce or meat products with you sir?'
"I think it was probably only the guy's gun that stopped Mark from twatting him."
Reports by Diamond Dateline that Ariel Press' "Raven 3" will no longer have a Steve Ditko-drawn cover are slightly incongruous. It never had one, just someone doing a very good imitation and passing it off as a gag. A gag that previews took very seriously indeed…
A TOME CALLED MALICE
Bryan Talbot's "Alice In Sunderland" that this column has featured over the last few weeks looks further to finding a publisher.
Hopefully the fly in the ointment of Kelly Osbourne starring in the similarly titled "Malice in Sunderland" won't cause problems…
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
Chuck Austen's takeover on "Captain America" from John Ney Reiber was even more sudden than some people thought. Apparently, Reiber had further issues in the pipeline, already being drawn. Chuck took the art and wrote entirely new stories. See if you can find one panel drawn by Jae Lee for a mountain hideout with sky in the background - with a new caption describing it as an under water lair.
IT ROTS THEIR BRAINS, YOU KNOW
Marvel's recent appeals to employees about being a family have had interesting parallels. One employee recalls a bunch of the bullpen who used to play Dungeons And Dragons during lunch.
It was then banned. Just like all good parents should.
Other employee conversations with Marvel management about the importance of morale in the company included the Marvel line that it's easier to fire a jaded employee and replace them then it is to un-jade them…
A SUPERSTITIOUS AND COWARDLY LOT
Over at the newly revived Dixonverse, Chuck Dixon has been sounding out about his ex-co-workers, Greg Rucka and Ed brubaker, on the Batman titles. He writes, "Having met both Mssrs Rucka and Brubaker on several occasions the difference is plain to me. Greg has a distinct lack or regard for his readership that translates to the work. He also tracks strongly along the lines of pastiche in his stories. Ed has a high regard for his readers and a genuine wish to entertain. He does, as we all do when writing, to stay away from pastiche. He falls into the trap sometimes but there's an honesty to his work that you cannot deny.
"Both of these guys love the genres that they're exploring but they come at it from decidedly different directions. Think of Greg as Andrew Vacchs and Ed as Donald Westlake."
Todd Allen's recent article on online comics has seen it propagate as links on a large number of websites, after Lying In The Gutters featured it last week. Maybe we could do the same for Todd's new critique on Scott McCloud and the micro-payment system, right here.