Love Me. Love Me, I Say!

Welcome to the fourth weekly installment of Lying In The Gutters, a gossip and rumour column serving the comic book industry by throwing a knife in its back. The traffic lights on each story are my takes on their reliability. Green lets you know I believe it, Amber let's you know I reckon there's something in it somewhere, Red lets you know I think it's quite possibly bullshit. But then you never know. The lights are just an indication - doesn't mean a red can't be true and a green can't be false. Take everything you read with a sprinkling of parsley- and if you do repost information here elsewhere, please include a warning to that effect.

And a link back to here. I want your hits, baby!


I hear rumours that December will be a "big month" for the Ultimate line. What does it entail?

Well, "Ultimate Venom" is scheduled to debut then. And classic Marvel Universe readers will remember exactly where Traditional Marvel Venom came from - Spider-Man's alien costume discovered on the patchwork planet as part of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars series.

I hear that we'll be getting an "Ultimate Secret War" project. Building on the common conspiracy running through the Ultimate books about over who runs SHIELD, the extent of their operations and who is above even them.

"Ultimate Secret War" will let this all play out with the characters from the Ultimate universe. And rather than being an "evil twin", Venom may well tie into whatever it was Peter Parker's father was working on in conjunction with his webbing formula. Or is it to be a SHIELD combat suit, designed to combat Spider-Man?

So, will the nostalgia market work for a Secret War revival?


Even with four extra pages in the first issue, seems that the solicited four issues of Spider-Man isn't enough for Kevin Smith's Black Cat story. It looks like it's getting a fifth issue. The new solicitation now says it's issue 5 Out Of 5… we'll wait to see if it gets a '6' next month.


A number of Marvel creatives have been challenging the rumours about the Ultimatisation of the Marvel Universe Both Ethan van Sciver and Chuck Austen have reportedly denied any knowledge while Paul Jenkins has been talking about his plans for the next couple of years of Spider-Man. Erik Larsen writes that it's a hoax and "my sources say that it was a fake rumor concocted to get tongues wagging. They wanted to see who was stupid enough to believe it and report it."

But another word is that this may well be a Mark Millar driven initiative within Marvel and the company is encouraging the rumour to play out across the fan community. And the huge amount of mail and posts generated across the fan community means that Marvel are quite happy not to deny it right now - and indeed cultivate it with intriguingly worded "no comments."

Indeed rumours about where the Ultimate line is headed fluctuate in a number of directions. The decision to drop an Ultimate Spider-Man issue from both the upcoming Spider-Man DVD and the dotComics line (in each case, replaced by Kevin Smith's Black Cat story) and previous mentions from Quesada that the Ultimate like has a "three year plan" has got a whole host of new tongues waggling about a perceived lack of support for an ultimate title.

Where next, folks?


Gutterati Joe reports from a charity screening of "The Road to Perdition" last night. Joe writes "Max Allan Collins did a Q&A after the movie. He said on Friday he finalized a deal with Penguin to do two more books, 'Road to Purgatory' and 'Road to Paradise,' but they'll be done as novels, not as graphic novels. He said the publisher wasn't happy going after the niche market of graphic novels, and that they weren't confident that a good movie would convince people to pick up comics."

Boo hiss, Penguin. See what the likes of Jonathan Cape, Random House and others have been doing with "From Hell" and "Ghost World"…


I've already reported that before Dan Fraga was meant to take over on "Black Panther," Oscar Jiminez was lined up - but then pulled out for undisclosed reasons.

On the left is the first page of "Black Panther 50" as it would have been drawn, if Oscar had stayed on the book. And just for comparison, below on the right are those pencils recently printed by CBR's Comic Wire, by Dan Fraga. If nothing else, it's intriguing to see how two artists worked from two separate scripts.


I'm always open to a little bit of plugging from the hype-meister Larry Young. Here is the cover to AIT/PlanetLar graphic novel "Full Fathom Five." The cover is by "Starman" TPB cover artist Brian Frey, the book is by Rick ("Teenagers From Mars") Spears and Christopher ("Tarzan") Schenck. Due next summer, we're talking undersea North Atlantic deep-space training facility, the first woman to set foot on Mars, and a giant squid.

You may now perform "my eyes are bleeding with the preview picture glory" spontaneous praise ejaculations in the WEF-stylee.


Dave Finch has been talking about his upcoming plans over at X-Fan's message boards. He writes about a previous Lying in The Gutters report

"I read the column...it was a quick mention, and the way it was worded it was true. It didn't say that I had shopped something to Crossgen...just around. Any shopping around I may have done is now finished though, and I'm locked in."

A new project locked in? To who? Finch follows up with "I talked to Wildstorm and to Humanoids. That's it." And then "I'm on 'The Call' for 3 more issues, and then I'm off to something Ultimate related. I'm really, really, really, really looking forward to it. Really."

Finch is reticent to reveal more but writes "I've been reading about the Ultimization of the Marvel Universe, and while my not knowing anything about that doesn't really mean anything one way or another, it does mean that I'm not going to be working on an Ultimate thing that doesn't already exist." So - X-Men, Ultimates or Spidey, Dave?


After Millar comes off "Ultimate X-Men," it seems he'll be back to the book he was originally going to write a year or so ago - "The Punisher." He'll become one of the rotating writers on the title - which might also help to push up its frequency.

But will there be a conflict here? An interesting twist to the exclusive Marvel contracts is that those signed up can only create comics for Marvel - but that includes not being allowed to work for Event Comics, the company that creates Marvel Knights titles for the main company, without special dispensation.

Now Mark Millar's contract has a twist - he's signed to write a guaranteed two titles a month for Marvel and anything else he can fit in for any other companies - but those two Marvel titles can't be late.

But this means that if he did "Punisher," it wouldn't count as one of those two titles for Marvel - so he's have to write another two just to keep in contract.

Or maybe he'll just wait until the contract expires.


Last week's Marvel press release about signing an exclusive contract with Gary Frank led to speculation that he might be reteamed on "Thunderbolts" with rumoured incoming writer John Arcudi. The pair had previously worked together on "Gen13." However I hear that Mark Bright is being courted to do interior pencils on "Thunderbolts," with either Romeo Tanghal or Greg Adams on inks.


Another possible test case for the denied Tibet policy at DC Comics might have been Brian Wood's upcoming "Fight For Tomorrow," taking place partially in Tibet, in flashbacks where the main character, as a small boy, is kidnapped from a monastery by mercenaries and sold into slavery as a fighter for local clan bosses.

However the country is not being named. Writer Brian Wood tells me "naming it Tibet specifically would bring a lot of politics into play that weren't necessary to the plot."


Dreamwave's message boards have been a little messed up of late - witness the banning of a longtime Dreamwave fan, Zenith Williams for… well, it's never really made clear. But a certain Dreamwave colourist called Gary seems to have a chip on his shoulder the size of Benidorm.

Quotes like "could care less about you. I guess your next logical step is, if you haven't taken it already, is to cry to Erik Ko" and "Normally I'm a pretty nice person, and I don't actively go out and pick fights except with art thieves and flamers, but here I am picking a fight with you."

Erik Ko, of Udon replied "My question is.. what the heck does this has to do with me really?"

Another Dreamwave employee pointed out "gary hates the dw/udon rivalry going on either in the boards, or between the people in real life" and "these days if you mention anything "bad" regarding recent dw comics or cg jobs or just anything related to the art/writing gary just gets pissed."

For more on this fun dalliance, read here for enlightenment.

[Red Light]MORE 1602 THEORIES

Another "1602" wrinkle. You know how Lying In The Gutter has previously talked about the story "City Of The Sun," written in 1602 about a utopian city built by super people, reminiscent of Gaiman's "Miracleman" series, which the mysterious Marvel series is meant to fund the return of? And then there were those who pointed out that 1602 backwards is 2061, the centenary of the first Marvel universe book, the Fantastic Four.


In 1602, Joseph Desa was born in Cupertino, near Brindisi and became a priest. He then exhibited spiritual gifts, authenticated, over the period of his life. The most remarked upon was levitation - he would fly straight from the church door to the altar over the heads of the worshippers. Once he flew to an olive tree and remained kneeling on a branch for half an hour. Happenings like these were almost every day occurrences, witnessed by hundreds of persons. Known as 'The Flying Friar', his flights occurred during heights of religious ecstasy. He demonstrated these gifts in front of popes and kings, converting a number.

He was the first superhero.

Place your bets ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.


I've had it confirmed that Keanu Reeves has finally signed on to play John Constantine in the upcoming "Hellblazer" film, as had been previously rumoured.

In the film Constantine is American and lives in a flat above a bowling alley. Of course. And the woman he teams up with to solve demonic crimes is the same girl he condemned to hell when he was younger.

Currently no Hellmobile. So that's a start.


[Magic Words]As rumoured in Lying In The Gutters a couple of weeks back, Avatar have solicited a new Alan Moore book, Magic Words, as part as a series of graphic novels for Avatar. 56 pages long and filled with adaptations of Moore's songs, poems and writings, selected by Moore, drawn by European artists and introduced by Warren Ellis. All worthy highbrow stuff yes? Well, here's the cover.

Warren Ellis writes "I checked. Alan approved the covers -- they apply directly to one of the song adaptations inside."

[Red Light]GI JOE GOLD

Heard those rumours about a GI Joe/X-Men crossover being bandied about at conventions? I'm told it's a revival of an old story which is far more interesting.

I hear that in the very early nineties when Larry Hama wrote a Wolverine/Snake Eyes proposal to be drawn by Herb Trimpe and Jim Lee. Then both Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane got involved - indeed the plan was to relaunch GI Joe from this mini-series, featuring work by Rob, Todd and Jim. Indeed, I understand a few familiar sounding characters such as Chapel, Al Simmons, Deadpool and Grifter would have appeared in the series, co-owned by Hasbro, Marvel and the creators.

The Marvel license fell though and the rest is Image history.


CrossGen looks like it may have a new market in Brazil very shortly indeed with at least one publisher taking. And then there are those pesky Hollywood rumours - looks like CrossGen will be announcing a bevy of movie deals at San Diego.

It's good to be CrossGen.


Last week's mention about Hasbro having an account with Diamond to get copies of the Transformers comics led to the realization that many companies and publishers also have Diamond buyer contracts to a) get a wide selection of the industry's comics titles without having to go via a retailer and b) it's a simple way to get every promotional item Diamond distributes to retailers.

However this does put lie to Diamond' assurance that they only sell to retailers - people with a store front, so as to avoid selling to individuals or groups of friends hoping to put wholesale. After all, should Bob and his mates be disqualified from ordering direct from Diamond, when that's just how Marvel staff can get their Fantagraphics quotient on the cheap?


The English-language weekly Raijin Comics being distributed in the USA, previously mentioned by this column (or rather, my last one) have announced their Global Inflitration Manga contents. As revealed by this column, the very-popular "Slam Dunk" feature by Inoue Takehito will appear, as will the prequel to "Fist Of The North Star," "Fist Of The Blue Sky" by Hara Tetsuo, "City Hunter" by Hojo Tsukasa, "Bomber Girl" by Niwano Makoto, "Guardian Angel" by Sakurano Minene, "Baki The Grappler" by Itagake Keisuke, "First President Of Japan" by Tsugihara Ryuji and Hidaka Yoshiki, "Revenge Of The Mouflon" by Ono Yoichiro, "Encounter" by Konohana Sakuya and "Keiji" by Hara Tetsuo

Read all this and more at www.raijincomics.com.


Like to point out November's Comics Journal 149 has a cover feature and looooooooong interview with one of my favourite comic book creators, Raymond Briggs, creator of The Snowman, Where the Wind Blows, Ethel And Ernest and Ug. Order it!


Erik Larsen has updated readers on "Savage Dragon 100" - specifically problems with Sam Kieth, due to ink a section. Larsen writes on his Savage Dragon Forum,

"Sam Kieth will NOT be inking a story. sam got the pages and panicked--too many figures--too many backgrounds--too little left up to him to do on his own. Sam talked himself into PAINTING it instead and then bailed on doing THAT as well. He finished three panels and sent it back. While I did like Sam's take--I thought it would look too disjointed to have Sam's panels mixed in with another artist/inker's stuff so I've redrawn those pages from scratch and they'll be inked by Mike Royer. Sam's stuff will see print in a later issue so you can check it out. Sam was very apologetic. He'd wanted to work with me for some time but it seemed as though he just didn't realize how much work I put into my pages. I'm a bit disappointed but understanding as well. It WAS a lot of work!"

"At this point the inkers on the back-up stories are: Chris Eliopoulos (yes, Chris), Jerry Ordway, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bruce Timm, Tim Townsend, Mike Royer, Terry Austin, Al Gordon and Walt Simonson. I'll be inking the lead story myself--as always. Pages are in from a number of these folks and they look terrific."

"Pin-ups are by Bruce Timm, Frank Miller, Frank Cho, Carlos Pacheco, Marc Silvestri and Arthur Adams. ALL of them are on hand."

"In terms of when it will be out--it's looking like it may be on sale August 28th. That's pretty late, I know--but it's four times as long as a regular issue of Savage Dragon and it's a mountain of work! I'm dyin' here!"


Following up on last week's pre-ordering decision by DC Vertigo to curtail the ongoing "Midnight, Mass" series to an eight issue limited series, a fan received the following personal letter from Paul Levitz

"Thanks for your letter in support of 'Midnight, Mass.' I'm a fan of the series, too."

"We won't make any decisions on a sequel series until John Rozum decides if he wants to do one -- then it will wend its way to my desk. I promise that if it's up to me, you'll see more of it."

On the DC Message Boards, John Roxum responded

"An interesting response from Paul. I believe that there is going to be quite a bit of back and forth between Paul Levitz and myself, or, at least, Paul's people and my people, in the coming weeks concerning 'Midnight, Mass.' Once there is something concrete to report, I will let everyone know.

Rozum continued "My planned structure for 'Midnight, Mass.' is to write 3-5 issue arcs punctuated by roughly 4 stand alone issues, or issues which feature two shorter stories. While the longer arcs work well as mini-series, the single issue stories do not. At best, some of them could be released as 'Halloween Special,' 'Winter Special' and 'Summer Special' which is what Heidi MacDonald was hoping to do with the story originally slated to be issue #8 when we found out we'd been truncated to mini-series status.

"The other big reason for doing it as an ongoing, is I have a rough outline for where I see the series going that will take about 100 issues to tell, or roughly 8-years (which zips by faster than you'd think). Imagine trying to do that with a maximum of 8-issues a year. No thanks.

"If 'Midnight, Mass.' continues, it will most likely begin with a new issue #1. For several reasons:

  1. First issues tend to sell better.
  2. A new series gets a bigger push from the publisher, and more attention from related media.
  3. A #1 gives new readers more incentive to jump in.

"I would also guess that a new 'Midnight, Mass.' would launch simultaneously with a release of a TPB collection of the eight issue mini-series. I doubt anything would be released before spring, but the schedule could be sped up, since I've already written most of what would be issues 3-7, and have half of issues 1 and 2 complete. Plus there's the 'Halloween issue' which just needs art.

"In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed, and thanks for the support."


Remember when DC went a little overboard over removing gay references in "The Authority?" And how Marvel there was speculation that Marvel had seen how this gay content sold to a new audience and sought to play up on that a little?

Peter Bagge commented that quite a few heterosexual gags were cut from "The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man," but the gay gags were left untouched.


I'll be at the Millarworld London launch. Probably with most of the Velvet Forum and the Monarchy Board too. I'll be armed with some of the juiciest rumours in Chistendom - and looking to pick up a fair few while I'm at it.


What the hell happened to the old story that Freddie Prinze Jr was to write a Spider-Man comic...?

What's happened to the "Essential Tomb Of Dracula" promised a while back? Is it waiting for a handy solicitation date or has it been quietly put out of its misery?

ANSWER: From Marvel editor Tom Brevoort's AOL Forum, "It's dead"

There appear to have been a number of dismissals at DC Comics very recently. I only heard Greg Ross being specifically named - anyone know who else?

ANSWER: I've been informed that Greg Ross has left DC of his own accord. And there have not been a number of dismissals.

Just how many drinks on Friday will I be able to persuade complete strangers to buy me?


If you've got a story, talk to me. Your identity will remain anonymous unless you wish otherwise. You can choose a pseudinym 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. I mean come on, I mean look at all these Marvel Universe threads that have been started. Start some more!

You can contact me at:

  • twisting@hotmail.com (which often gets full, but it'll reach me during the day)
  • rich@twistandshout.freeserve.co.uk (which I read every morning - best for graphic files!)
  • AOL Instant Message me at TwistRich
  • 0780 1350982 (01144780 1350982 from N America)
  • Letter bombs can be sent to 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU, ENGLAND

Be seeing you.

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