Lying In The Gutters

Mon, November 6th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

Welcome to the most popular and longest running comics column on the internet. In its various forms, Lying In The Gutters has covered rumours and gossip in the comics industry for twelve long glorious and quite scary years.

All stories are sourced from well-connected individuals and checked with respective publisher representatives before publication. Mostly. The veracity of each story is judged by me and given a spotlight - Green is the most reliable, Amber means there's likely an interest involved or the likelihood isn't set and Red means even I can't quite bring myself to believe it.

Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced.

QUOTE OF NEXT WEEK: "Shaken or stirred, sir?" "What makes you think I care?" - "Casino Royale"

CIVIL BORE?

[Red Light]French artist Gerald Parel, upcoming on "Iron Man," posted the following image on his blog, although it's gone now.

Enlarged image includes full logo - spoiler alert!

Further discussion reveals that this is the cover to "Iron Man" #15.

However, this may all be part of some elaborate online windup. Mark Millar posted on Millarworld that this image gave away the fact that there will be a new Iron Man at the culmination of "Civil War," when the image did no such thing. And this explanation was left in public for quite a while before being pulled. Certainly enough for message boarders, bloggers and me to fall across it.

So, spoiler text above and on the picture just in case, and there's probably a spoiler for Iron Man's new role anyway. But this looks like it's been used as another excellent piece of subterfuge from Mr. Millar. Bless.

HALF COVER

[Green Light]"Black Panther" #21, subject of last week's column slight mocking that it hadn't been labelled a "Civil War" crossover, despite launching a significant aspect of the plot, has sold out. It will be reprinted, this time with "Civil War" livery, and next issue's cover has been rejigged to support the "Civil War" look.

That's what happens when editors don't tell marketing what's going on in their books...

More on "Black Panther" later in this column.

THE WEIGHT OF ADVERTISING

[Green Light]I work in advertising. Some people forget that and think this is my full job. Please.

Anyway, a while back, Marvel received considerable criticism for putting too much advertising in their comics. Retailers didn't like it, because extra pages mean extra weight, mean more shipping costs without getting any more revenue in return. And readers didn't like it because it disrupts the flow of the story too much and, basically, it feels weird when there's more advertising than content. They shouldn't care, they still get their 22 pages of story for 3 bucks, but they're disturbed by it.

Anyway Marvel agreed and said they put a stop to it.

Last week, "Dr Strange" #2 had 28 pages of advertising to 22 pages of comics and other Marvel books have had double page paginations interrupted by ad inserts. But probably nothing compared to what readers of DC's "Superman Confidential" had to deal with. Lots and lots and lots of advertising, 3D glasses for a Teen Titans insert and a grumbling retailer moaning about how much the freight was going to cost them on this. Especially with the 3D glasses making all the comics slip down onto the floor.

Some people are never happy.

PRESTON BIAS

[Green Light]At Prestonpandemonium on Saturday, we learnt a few things:

Alan Grant was talking about his new comic, "Kidnapped" - the pencils of which were finished last week by Cam Kennedy. The book will be released in several formats during early February - Standard Graphic Novel, kids version and a version translated in broad Scots. The book is being issued to promote literacy as part of a UNESCO initiative and copies will be handed out in Edinburgh schools and left on Edinburgh buses.

If the book is well received, Alan Grant is already in discussions to produce a line of classics - the next being "Treasure Island," again with Cam Kennedy.

Ian Rankin is an Alan Grant fan and they met for the first time - Mr. Rankin had just received confirmation that he can go ahead with his "Hellblazer" story, likely to be a seven issue arc based in Hell - with a brief appearance for Rebus at the Hell bar.

STILL SIN CITY

[Red Light]This week I received reports, parts of which have also been reported by Film Ick, that a halt had been called on preproduction artwork for "Sin City 2" and creators dismissed, that there have been significant disagreements between Rodriguez and Miller, and the handshake deal with Angelina Jolie fell apart, leading to doom and gloom for the eagerly anticipated sequel. It seemed to be circulating everywhere. So I took it to the big man.

I've been told by Frank Miller's attorney, Harris Miller, that this is incredibly incorrect and there's not even anything yet to which to call a halt. "Frank's working on 'The Spirit' and his comics work, and Robert's working on 'Grindhouse' and other projects. Nothing's been set yet and nothing's been altered. There are certain discussions that must take place before the sequel is scheduled, and those talks haven't even begun. . . . . And Frank and Robert aren't having any disagreements, significant or otherwise."

Shortly thereafter, Harris Miller forwarded this message to me:

This is patent nonsense. Cybercrap.

FM

There you go. You heard it from Frank. I dare you to disagree with him when he stares you in the face.

CONAN THE PUBLICIST

[Green Light]The creator of Image comic series "The Last Christmas", Brian Posehn, will appear on Conan O'Brien's show in the US on the 29th of November, followed by drivetime radio shows the day after, to promote the comic. So if you want a copy, get them now!

ZOMBIES CAN'T SPELL FOR TOFFEE

[Green Light]

Especially if it's sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

RUNNING MAN

[Green Light]A DC source tells me that employee Chris Chiang was running the New York marathon this past Sunday, raising money for the Christopher Reeves foundation, sporting a Superman symbol. You can still donate money.

Look at the donor list. Comic book industry names include Hank Kalanz, Karen Berger, Paul Levitz, Terri Cunningham and John Byrne!

Why not join them?

PAWS FOR THOUGHT

[Green Light]This week, a number of places reported that the moderator of CBR's Marvel Comics Forum temporarily closed down "Black Panther" commentary on the CBR boards, due to the extremity of debate over Reggie Hudlin's run on the title. Shortly after this occurred, the moderator reversed his decision once it was pointed out by other moderators and the staff of CBR that this was the wrong way to handle things. So, discuss away!

Two weeks ago I bought a copy, realised that it was a major part of the "Civil War" story yet lacking trade dress, and told you all about it. Marvel are now reprinting the issue in question in "Civil War" livery and applying that to the next issue as well.

What I didn't mention was how much I enjoyed the issue in question.

Now, I used to read "Black Panther." I absolutely adored Priest's long run on the book, as it twisted its way through various editorial regimes and demands. It had heart, intelligence and wit. It received almost universal acclaim from the online community throughout its run. And it sold terribly. Quesada used it as an example of how Internet comment affected sales in the store, ie. not at all.

Reggie Hudlin revamped the book. Sales are still pretty low. Yet the internet controversy is huge. There has been much debate over the quality of writing, the way characters are treated, continuity warped, readers lied to by editorial, readers affected by their own racial prejudices, Hollywood writers on comics, allegations of being racial simplistic, lack of experience, lack of empathy, blinkered viewpoints and Reggie Hudlin himself taking to the boards to kick it up a further notch.

Me, I bought the comic for a couple of issues and dropped it. Compared to Priest's run, it felt flat and boring. I missed out on the whole kerfuffle about changing continuity, having the arc officially designated a Year One story, only for that explanation to conflict with the next arc, Panther to be instantly wed to the only other African superhero in Marvel, Storm, the resultant retcon throughout Marvel's continuity to accommodate it, and the allegations of racism from all sides against the other over this decision. I was getting the buzz I got from Priest's book on titles like "New X-Men," "The Ultimates," "X-Statix" - oh and "The West Wing," "Shameless," "State Of Play," "Outlaws," "The Wire" and even "Doctor Who" for my sins.

But I bought the last issue. Featuring an underwater diplomatic meeting between Storm, The Sub Mariner and Panther regarding the Civil War. And it was rather spiffy. Separate agendas clashing, differing resolutions and a heart pumping finale. All from people standing around talking. I'll be buying the next issue.

PORCELAIN TEMPLE

[Green Light]Last Tuesday night I went out with Ben Templesmith for a quiet drink. Which ended up at 3 in the morning in a private Hallowe'en party in Soho House, with us both being groped by all sorts of people. Hi Liam! Hi Andy!

Anyway, he sent a few covers for "Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse." Issues #5, #6 and #7.

Some people have the impression it's just a four issue limited series. It's not…

TIGHT LIPS SLIGHTLY OPENED

[Yellow Light]Last week I wrote about creators alleging a lack of, or delayed payments from TightLip Entertainment. I emailed the TightLip's editor-in-chief Rick Olney for a week or so about this, without response. After running the article last week, Olney did make contact and I pulled the piece, pending a fuller response to the allegations made.

Naturally Olney asked who was making these allegations. Suffice it to say that it is certain creators who have worked for TightLip, who feel they are owed money without likelihood of recompense. They feel constrained by TightLip's non-disclosure agreements to go public, and don't want to get involved with lawyers.

Olney tells me that there are no payment issues that haven't "been worked out to the mutual satisfaction of both parties." Olney cited production delays due to business and personal reasons, but that no one contacted about this has expressed problems. And that Olney would rather they contact him than me.

We've received several emails since the initial article last week, from known members of the comics industry who wish to remain anonymous. Each of these new messages appear to be independently sent, and each seems to reinforce the same impression as our earlier article. Olney states that he has received many problems from "trolls" and

mischief makers and considers these allegations may be part of that. The number of complaints that resemble each other from seemingly unconnected creators might lead one to think it's either an incredibly coincidental series of miscommunications Rick's had with unrelated creators, or a conspiracy of trolls and mischief makers who have it in for Rick, or that where there is smoke there might just be fire. We'll let our readers decide if it's one of those possibilities, or something else.

From the TightLip website: "In a world where mankind has placed self greed and material worth over morality and justice -- The entertaining values of TightLip exist to point and guide your imagination to reality."

DIGGING INTO CHANGES

[Yellow Light]Mike Bise, the man who exposed the "Infinite Crisis" HC changes on the DC boards is continuing his challenge with the thread, "There is NO Master Plan At DC," exploring the popular belief that despite the spin, universe continuity is not being planned but being made up as it goes along.

He cites evidence, as well as the significant changes made to "Infinite Crisis" HC, Walt Simonson's version of how Kendra (Hawkgirl) was working in a museum for a year at the beginning of the "One Year Later," but six months into "52" was still working at a library and the state of (Hawkman) Carter...

"I don't just mean that Kendra didn't know where Carter was; I mean that nobody knew where Carter was. It had not been decided at that point what had happened to Carter other than that he had dropped out of the comic. As a result, there was a certain constraint on saying much about Carter. What could you say other than--Carter? Oh, yeah. He's missing."

And since Johns is going to put Hawkman in the new "JSA" comic, that has to be set up too, even though no one at where Hawkman is, currently..

Bise also cites Stuart Moore on "Firestorm" stating that he tied an issue into "52" by leaving a speech balloon unfilled in, and letting Steve Wacker add the dialogue. Which doesn't exactly sound like the greatest big crossover continuity tie in, in the world, I have to say.

Still, it's more than in "Civil War: X-Men."

TRANSFORMINGMETROPOLITAN

[Green Light]"Transmetropolitan" TPBs are going out of print without being replaced. DC are planning to relaunch the Transmet trades in new configurations shortly.

Time to hit eBay!

THE AMAZING ANDY MANGELS

[Green Light]The Amazing Andy Mangels has raised over fifteen grand for Women's & Children's Shelters with a Wonder Woman themed auction in four days, single handedly. Puts other higher profile auctions to shame, so it does. See more here.

SWIPE FILE?

[Yellow Light]Claire Bennett from TV's "Heroes"

Saturn Girl:

BITS AND PIECES

[Green Light]Is Brian Hibbs my long lost twin?

Hot Fuzz!

Punisher owns a comic shop!

SMALL PRINT

Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum and add your request to what you want from future columns.

Visit my MySpace as I discuss next week's column through the week.

Check whatever I'm selling on eBay ... new stuff every week all the way up to Christmas.

Contact me on richjohnston@gmail.com or on AOL Instant Messenger as TwistRich.

You can also write to me at 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU ENGLAND

Or call me/text me on 0780 1350982 from the UK or 01144780 1350982 from the US.

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