Ramblings – 24th December 1998

This is a reprint of the earliest web-version of the comics industry gossip, rumour, and reportage column by Rich Johnston. Complete with mistakes, incorrect assumptions and dead links.

Ramblings 98:

The original comic-book industry rumour and news column,
by Rich Johnston.

Elmo Health Warning:

This column is RUMOUR. Do not take anything here seriously. These RUMOURS are presented here as GOSSIP for their ENTERTAINMENT value.

Dateline: 24 December 1998

Magical Mystery Christmas

One source emails us a festive Christmas titbit. "I was at a recent signing by Alex Ross and Paul Dini and I heard this story straight from Paul's mouth.

Anyhow, the woman who voices Harley Quinn on the Batman TV show and her family are good friends of Paul's. She has a little boy who loves Scooby Doo. So what Paul did for a Christmas gift is he rented the Mystery Machine from Warner Brothers and drove it over as a surprise for the little boy. he went in and visited for awhile and then told the child that he had brought his "special car" for him. They went outside and the boy walked completely around the van in awe, then just clapped his hands together overcome with joy."

Happy Christmas from South Africa everyone, I'll be back in Britain for the New Year.

Dateline: 10 December 1998

Simply Dead.

The latest we hear on Deadpool is that the book will be cancelled at issue 30.

It's not alone. Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty is likely to go as well and throughout the year's X-Men story End Times, a couple of X-books are likely to go as well.

Is MC2 likely to get the push at the end of the summer? The new owners are keeping faith in the series, despite sales falling on everything, but patience may wear thin. Could it be a line of comics designed for kids, produced by creators who all want to resurrect the 60s, in a market that neither wants it or desires it?

Top Row

The CSNsider seems to have managed to get response from Top Cow as to their partial acquisition by Eidos.

The CSNsider line seems to be that this is no great shakes, only 10% of Top Cow has been bought by Eidos, Eidos don't control Top Cow, it's part of a strategic partnership, it's old news, and it won't break up Image.

Point One: Top Cow previously wouldn't admit that ANY amount had been sold. Equally, Eidos US and Eidos UK have been silent when pressed, officially. Unofficially, Eidos employees have said that that have bought some of Top Cow, all of Top Cow or that they have an option to buy it all.

Point Two: Whether or not this is old or new news is irrelevent. It was exclusive news, this story hadn't been broken anywhere. No one outside of these companies and Image seems to have known about it and those who did kept silent. The games press haven't a clue about this either. It has been kept a secret. So why did Top Cow and Eidos keep it such a secret? Maybe it's because fans like to think of the Top Cow stuff as still being owned by the guy who created it, Marc Silvestri. Well, it's not. We know about one 10% so far… are there any others? Many people judge their buying decisions on ownership, Nestle, Nike etc. Someone who feels that Eidos' Tomb Raider demeans women might not want any of their comics money going to Eidos. Admittedly, they aren't that likely to buy Witchblade or Fathom, but the point stands.

Point Three: Image naturally won't be 'broken up' per se, it's profitable (still) and the brand name is worth loads. But this could be another example of the 'death of a thousand cuts'. Liefeld's gone. Lee's gone. Last month everyone as Image had to offer loads of backstock just to keep the numbers up (Image Central get a fixed fee for every issue solicited, and I've been told that people got a discount if they solicited more issues).

Any more for anymore?

Seedy CDs.

Spring '99 sees EMI release a set of CD's with CD sized books by cartoonists and their favourite music. Gilbert Shelton, Robert Crumb, Ralph Steadman and others. About 20 tracks of music they like with a book about them, the music and full of pictures including original covers.

Dateline: 06 December 1998

Future Feature

Well, Alex Ross' comments a few weeks ago kicked up a small storm. Thanks to Joel Meadows of Tripwire, we're able to serialise certain parts from the Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and John Paul Leon interview/feature from which that quote came. Tripwire Special B will ship to UK stores in mid December and Diamond will probably get it to US shops by mid January.

As ever, we appreciate any and all responses, especially from those affected.

Earth X

Earth X was created as a concept by Alex Ross for a Wizard feature which soon became a supplement, an alternative and radical future for the Marvel Universe. Now it's a series in it's own right co-written, designed and covered by Alex Ross, co-written with Foot Soldiers writer Jim Krueger and drawn by John Paul Leon.

According to Jim Krueger "Alex called me and told me that he had this idea that the entire world was mutated. He didn't want an apocalyptic ending again because that happened in Kingdom Come and a lot of the other 'Last Superhero' stories. His take was that everyone had some sort of superhero power, so there was no line of distinction between homo superior and homo sapiens."

"What is the nature of the Marvel Universe?"

Ross says "I was very satisfied with what I did on Marvels and I almost felt as if I had got everything out of my system. When it came to the DC stuff, I was still full of enough piss and vinegar to keep going with more projects featuring their characters. That's why I've done Superman Peace On Earth, that's why I'm going to be working on a Batman project and so on. A lot of people are going to think that this is a sell out project and that's where we have to prove them wrong. This series has a lot of overintellectualisations of superheroes to it and I couldn't be happier with the stuff that Jim's doing."

Krueger continues "One of the major plots of Earth X involves the subjugation of this new humanity by a new villain. The new villain becomes a revisitation of the spirit of The Red Skull with it being The Red Skull himself. He's just some punk kid who's the perfect piece of white Aryan trash, who's going around conquering all that is within his sight. His ability is to make anyone do whatever the hell he wants. This battle causes Captain America to scour the world for allies and regroup and then attack this kid. They need to approach this battle in a very strategic way because the minute that you come anywhere near the life of this kid, you can be taken over by him. It's a daunting physical battle on that level but then there's also the intellectual mystery that's going on as well, asking greater questions like 'What is the nature of the Marvel Universe?' In this series, we will give a definition of why superheroes happened at all."

Ross adds "The Zero issue reviews the entire history of Marvel's development all the way from The Stone Age upwards and there's so many things to cover but Jim successfully summarises events in a way that it feels as if it all makes perfect sense. It really flows together in a harmonious fashion."

As to the choice of Leon to draw Earth X, Ross says "No one believes this right off the bat, but he really is the better one for drawing this than me because he's really bringing something fresh. I think that I certainly could have done a good job but I don't necessarily fancy that I would have done a better job. I'm a huge fan of his graphic pen and ink style of pure light and pure shadow and I've wanted to learn from it. I get too involved with different levels of light and it's almost more than you need. I like the simplicity of his graphic approach."

Political Diatribe About The USA

"America is completely screwed."

Ross started to let rip on something that readers of Uncle Sam will be familiar with. "The only people who really justifiably would be in a good position to take control are the people who are actually used to having that kind of physical power in their hands. You need to set up forms of government that the people can be inspired by and reigned in by, so you're stepping back in time and culture in a sense. You step back to more feudal systems of government, systems where the people are ruled by a king. You return to having a czar in Russia and a king of the entire continent of Africa, something that's almost unheard of. These sorts of things don't happen today, as they're too simplistic. It's what's necessary to pull these nations together and by comparison, America is completely screwed."

"The fact is that Americans, and I'm sure that you're going to agree with me on this, have more experience than any other nation on Earth of being self-indulgent. Every other European and Eastern nation are much more pliable to the whims of a ruling body. That lack of vanity that exists in these places will make those countries a lot more able to adjust to the changing times or the changing physiology. So it's a very exciting and interesting thing to be able to say 'We're going to make these countries the much better off lands than America, for the chaos that it's in'.

The Rest Of The World

"We will go with Captain America on his recruitment drive all over the world. We see him go to recruit The King of Britain, formerly Captain Britain, Czar Peter, who used to be Colossus, and King Panther, who out of those three guys, is the only one who wasn't a mutant prior to the plague and so he is now truly a Panther man.

He is also running all of Africa , where there's another big sub-plot that will not be fully developed in our initial series. All I can say is that this sub-plot touches on themes that were explored in the film 'Planet Of The Apes'. The question that we put is that, if this mutant plague is asserting a next wave of development and an enormous spike development for evolution, why is it only affecting man? Is it only affecting man? So we're hinting that it is also affecting animal life and what we would argue is that it's not necessarily making them all individualistic but is making them move up to being more or less humanoid."

"Why am I doing the grunt job?"

"Human progress has been halted by the fact that, if everybody's running around with the ability to fly or do whatever fucking thing is their wish, then progress really would halt. You've got too many people who are asking themselves: 'Why am I doing this grunt job?' You need people to do those grunt jobs just so that the world goes on."

"We're going to be seeing a situation where Russia is one of the best countries on Earth because there's a downtrodden people who are finally given some sense of self worth. But they're also used to having a restrictive form of government, so they're interested in bringing back the czars. They're interested in bringing back somebody who can enforce some sort of control and bring everything into line. Given the fact that food production is going to be one of the biggest issues because you're going to have too many lazy bastards in America who suddenly decide that, now they've got these powers, they don't want to be farmers anymore. On the other hand, in Russia, you're going to have an enormous farming system in Russia, so the rest of the world is going to be beholden to them at this point. So now Russia becomes a virtual paradise because it will advance and again we're poking holes at the structure of America."

NYPD News

"I realised who'd actually be running the police force within New York. It made perfect sense that again, as with all forms of government and taking control, the superheroes have a better responsibility sense to them. Luke Cage as the renegade Hero for Hire can actually be the one to take the reins back of formal policing of the entire city of New York. He's very similar to the Duke of New York character from 'Escape From New York' played by Isaac Hayes. In a sense, Cage is the Sheriff of New York, where he's established a ragtag kind of police force that he is now the chief representative of. This occurs because you've got a bunch of Irish and Italian guys in the police force in New York City who just suddenly think 'Hey I've got wings and I can fly? What the hell do I need to do this anymore? Why do I have to do this grunt job?'"

X-Men

"I've always hated the X-Men as a book so I found that the perfect way to destroy them was to fully embrace them. Given the nature of the change in this world, what I've really done is closed them down as if they serve no function. There's no reason for them to exist anymore. Homo superior is now it and man is dead. We shall be exploring the change to mutants in some depth in the series. The Beast will be in our upcoming one. One of the funny things that we establish about mutants is that characters that had already been transformed for many years before the plague hit are ageing normally. So they've gotten much older as the people that have been transformed by the plague have ceased ageing. They reach maturity and then that's it. In the case of The Beast, he's now completely white. He's in Africa studying the genetic growth of the Animen, and basically all of Africa's Animal Kingdom is growing into a humanoid state. People like Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank McCoy and Bruce banner are all trying to figure out what the hell caused this plague."

Reed Richards

"From the beginning of the series, everyone has been mutated and no-one knows why but generally Reed Richards blames himself. He was experimenting with Vibranium, attempting to harness it as a power source for the entire world. If you go back to the early original Fantastic Four issues where it talked about The Black Panther, there was this myth about a Vibranium mound and anyone getting near it turning into a monster. So Reed Richards, who has shouldered the blame for Ben Grimm becoming a monster, now has to shoulder the blame for the entire world becoming mutants. Now that's only one theory as to why Earth has mutated. Because there's lots of things to do with The Celestials and their visit to Earth in the past."

The Plot Thins…

According to Krueger (getting a word in), "Earth X has two major storylines that cross, playing off the whole 'X insignia' in the first place. One of the storylines deals with mankind, the classic man and his fight to survive whilst the other is the grand design of the Marvel Universe. Cosmic characters like The Celestials, The Watcher, The Eternals, The Kree and The Inhumans. Effectively, you've got the life that comes from Earth and the life that comes out of the stars and it's going to happen in a way which explains a lot of stuff that's never been explained before."

Control Is Key

Back to Ross and his attitude to Marvel. "The kind of things that they won't give away are any sort of control over what they might do. If they want to publish fifteen series featuring Earth X afterwards, then we're pretty well fucked. More than likely, what'll happen is that once the first series finishes, they'll want a fragmenting of product. But we have right of refusal to work on these things and we also, because of our contract, are given the opportunity to put together the basic creative teams to make these projects happen. What I'll be trying to do when I go up to Marvel is negotiate a way for us to more or less keep control."

Playing To The Audience

"I can't claim that I've read all I should have in life but I've read a hell of a lot of stupid ass comics and I know a lot of the things that have already been tried. I want to try and do original work with all of the things that I lend my time to and I think that we're legitimately doing so with this series. If it's making jaded readers like Jim and I excited, then we have to follow our gut instinct, that there's something in it for everyone. I think that the reason that my projects have worked out so well is that I am the audience. I'm not a step above them on the evolutionary chain. I think that Jim is much the same way and so is everybody I've ever worked with, people like Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid. We are all transmuting our audience, channelling them via some kind of sorcery and that's what's necessary. If you think that you're better than your audience, that's where there's going to be enormous chinks in your armour."

Marvel Machinations

With the recent Marvel firings, cutbacks (and more to come), what's Ross's view on the situation of Earth X?

"I think that this series is safe in a very strange way. It's as if everything's crumbling around it and we're on this little island where everyone is dying. But the new owners, Toy Biz, have a very strong vested interest in what we're doing. By all reports, they're looking to do a lot of big business with this series and they're planning a whole number of toys based on the concepts and that can only benefit us."

Kingdom Commotion

"Fuck the Kingdom. I fucking hate it."

Okay, we knew we'd get to this one. Earth X comes out in the same month as Mark Waid's Kingdom books. Now, we know Ross has a lot to say about this. Go for it, Alex…

"Fuck The Kingdom. I fucking hate it. Think about this. He's doing stories that actually sequel Kingdom Come to the point where he's putting characters back in costume. Doesn't that go against the entire theme of that series, which stated that these characters were going to stop having that separation between man and superman? So that would mean that they wouldn't have guys running around with capes on, so Mark is basically overlooking the entire fucking point, okay? That's what I cannot stand. I have absolutely no care for it, because if it was being done by other creators, not the writer I worked with, and the editor I worked with, who just admired the work and decided that they wanted to use the concept of the character design, I'd be flattered. Not for one second do they say to themselves 'Maybe we shouldn't do this because the guy who fucking created the goddamn concept in the first place isn't involved' but that question has never entered their minds because they could give two shits about me.

Initially, I did the Earth X sketchbook to throw kids off my scent. I was asked at every fucking signing I did when I was going to get started on The Kingdom project. I had to put up with that question for two years and I was sick of being asked it. At this point people know that I'm not involved with it and that's great.

The Kingdom is taking characters in some cases that I developed when I was a little kid. In the case of Kingdom Come, the subplot with the son of Batman and the daughter of Robin was something that I was begging to get more room to do and I was never given anything except the fucking backgrounds to do story stuff in and now I see that these guys both have their own issues in The Kingdom week. That's truly offensive to me because that was my concept, both of those characters were my creation and it's insulting. So again I have nothing nice to say, I'm openly full of bile and I shouldn't be but I'm a very small man."

Phew.

The full text on this feature is in Tripwire Special B, out shortly. Apparently you can win exclusive Earth X goodies, see preview art and all other manner of nonsense.

Comments anyone?

This Time I Mean It.

Okay folks, rally round. We hear from a Marvel source that Deadpool is back on the chopping block. Recently rescued from cancellation hell, new issues have been planned and scheduled. But the ToyBiz bosses don't look favourable on a book that isn't achieving high enough sales, whether or not they are profitable.

Look, Ramblings '98 has been credited by some with helping Deadpool survive through the latest cancellation problems. If we can do it once, we can do it again.

Deadpool is the finest Marvel book currently being published. Not Daredevil, not Black Panther, not Inhumans, not Spider-man or Earth X. It's Deadpool and if we don't do something about it, Deadpool will go away.

If you care about a good book dying, then e-mail mail@marvel.com and request that Marvel keep Deadpool on the schedules. Suggest what a good toy line or animation series Deadpool would make (it doesn't matter if you don't believe it). Do it now, it's only a click away. Consider it payment for reading this column.

Thank you. Now on with the rumours.

Fired Head

Our new rumour-mongering source Elayne Wechsler, reports to Usenet a rumour she heard from a comic shop employee. The recent Crisis Hardcover misprint, subsequent retrievel, tipping in the correct page and return (costing DC wodges of cash, but not as much as to reprint the whole lot) has cost editor Taylor his job.

Yeechang Lee heard from a comic shop employee that two members of DC staff had been fired about this. Any advance of staff-firing-from-comic-shop-employee statistics?

We recommend that anyone fired should join Awesome Entertainment as they don't seem to have a problem with this kind of thing.

We thank Elayne for this information, hope she continues in her new role, congratulate both herself and DC inker Robin Riggs on their recent marriage and listen out for the patter of tiny Hunts.

Low Blow

We hear that Lobo has also been cancelled by DC Comics.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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