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.
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: 27 November 1998
|Kingdom Keeps Coming |
Matt Haley sent us an interesting e-mail. Read on…
"This is Matt Haley, artist on Kingdom: Nightstar (borrowing my studiomate's computer)…I've got to add my two cents about this whole 'Kingdom' thing. Dan Raspler (editor of the Kingdom week books) asked me, Brian Apthorp and Gene Ha to be involved in a 'Kingdom thing' almost immediately after the Kingdom Come books shipped, but they didn't know what the format would be, so the project languished…Brian and I heard very little for a long time, then I heard that Gene Ha quit, then I heard that he'd quit comics all together, then I heard that Alex wouldn't be involved…so I forgot about it.
"Then, in July of this year, DC decides to do the 'Kingdom' stunt-week. I thought long and hard about doing it, mainly because I have enormous respect for Alex and his work, and didn't want to just ride in on his coattails. I was worried that I would be seen as a 'poor man's Alex Ross', and I'd rather make my own mark than try to imitate someone else. That said, knowing how important the Nightstar character is to Alex, I figured if he wasn't going to draw her, I'd rather do it myself and try to stay true to what Alex created. If he loses respect for those of us involved, well…not all of us are in the same tax bracket, are we? In Mark's defense, I think he wrote a great script for Nightstar, a personal story one doesn't often see in funnybooks. Maybe this will clear some of this brouhaha up… I'd be interested in Alex's response."
We'll pass it on, Matt…
Behind The Scenes At The X-Men
Fresh from the behind-the-scenes Superman stories, we can now clarify who is working on what in the central X-books. It seems that a number of minds have changed and people generally moved about since we last spoke.
And as for Brandon Peterson? Our source tells us that he's been 'let go'.
The editorial boys at Marvel Knights, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, have been told by the Toy Biz managment that when their contract runs out next year it will not be renewed. However, they have been telling other parties that it will continue in order to keep things upbeat at Marvel. Expect a number of other projects announced, planned or in the pipeline to be canned as well – except most of the staff don't know it yet and new proposals are being accepted all the time to keep things sweet. They probably won't be published however.
The Marvel Knights chaps have had their 13th floor offices moved from a primo space in the Marvel offices to a closet sized dump nearby. Although the sales of the Knights books have been good,the large page rate's they have given to the writers and artists have made their profitability small to nonexistent.
Mark Waid has responded to the previous Superman postings to this website that claimed that Waid and others had attempted an unethical coup of the Superman titles.
He writes "This sounds like a sound bite from someone with an axe to grind, and it enrages me beyond imagination. We were ASKED TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL, and in fact, we did not until some time later when I was called and asked specifically once more by DC to make a pitch. That's an undeniable fact. We did nothing even remotely unethical–though it's my suspicion that the spreading of this blatant lie by person or persons suspected but unknown for sure is at least in part what cost us the opportunity to be involved with Superman."
Thanks for your informed viewpoint, Mark. If anyone else who has an interest or insight into this situation, we encourage them to respond.
Another source wrote to us, saying "The attempted coup by Morrison, Millar et al sounds like a rerun of the 2000 AD Summer Offensive of 1993 – except that actually happened."
I remember this well, 2000 AD readers may remember a slew of Morrison and Millar created strips, well hyped and yet only "Big Dave" is remembered by most, and that was by being politically-correct-uncorrect-satirical, basically sexist, racist and homophobic all in the name of irony.
As to the rest? Our source says "Poorly written Dredd pastiche, standard Robocop ripoff for Maniac 5, drug-addled dribble in Really and Truly (did Grant Morrison invent Girl Power?) and dinosaur racing in Slaughterbowl."
Mind you, Superman vs Big Dave… who'd pay money to see that? Put me down for starters…
Some confirmation on the schedule and creative team on The Witching Hour is now available. Written by Jeph Loeb, pencilled by Chris Bachalo, owned by the both of them and the title licensed from DC, the book will debut October 1999 from Vertigo, definitely, Karen Berger editing and Art Thibert on inks. Looks like the Cliffhanger threat was just that. Looks like it worked, too.
No More Resurrections
Dan Abnett's Resurrection Man will end early next year.
Dateline: 25 November 1998
The Superman rumours continue to flood in. As to the attempted takeover we reported on? Another source has some more information behind the scenes. The source claims "The reason Waid, Morrisson, Peyer and Millar weren't given the books is that the way they went about getting them was unethical. DC already had its Superman creative teams under contract and was not seeking new writers, nor did the company want to fire everyone involved to accomodate creative egos run amok. It was, in short, a doomed and failed coup attempt."
Yet another source claims that Levitz has a personal dislike for Grant Morrison and that this is the reason the books didn't go their way. More info appreciated!
Dateline: 24 November 1998
|Deck The Halls With Pink Slips|
The Marvel Christmas firings… what can we expect? One source guesses "one-third more of the overall staff." He then details just how money grabbing Marvel can be. "They were calling for cost cuts across the board during Calabrese's short second reign, including strict auditing of all phone calls — no personal calls, no lengthy long distance calls veering away from the immediate business matters at hand, and you'd better be ready to justify the calls — and demanding that everyone turn off their lights when they leave their offices even for just a couple minutes, and using desk lamps instead of overhead lights when at all possible. Budget for advertising in comics markets was obliterated. Management is looking to gut wherever possible."
Behind The Scenes At Superman
More behind the scenes shennanigans have been reported. The latest Mark Waid/Grant Morrison rumour goes thus. At San Diego this year Mark Waid and Grant Morrison proposed to DC to take over the writing of the Superman book's. They along with writer's Tom Peyer and Mark Millar would script one each of Superman's comics. Editor Joey Caveleri and I think Mike Carlin said no. When Eddie Berengeza took over the Superman book's they tried again. This time the answer was yes. Plans were started. Promise's made. Then two week's after they started Berengeza was told by Levitz. "We don't put superstars on our Superman or Batman titles". Waid (who was going to leave at least one of the two Captain America titles) and Morrison are rather annoyed. And Berengeza looks like an idiot. Plus he fired Ordway and Jurgens to clear the deck for the new guys and was then ordered to rehire them. But they said no.
Davis Of Future Passed
We've heard that X-Men writer/artist Alan Davis has asked to stay on after his X-run. Past experience has shown that Bob Harass will accomodate Davis as much as he wants- Davis really is Harass' preferred creator for anything and everyuthing. We had fears that this might cause problems for Brandon Peterson's confirmed status on the book but it looks like Brandon is secure. It now conspires that Wolverine artist Lenil Francis Yu was promised the art chore's on Uncanny X-Men. But now with Davis staying, he was told no, but he can have a job filling in when needed. Considering he left Wolverine for Uncanny, he's not happy, but he is considering a offer from Image's Avalon Studios to write and draw his own comic.
Joe Kelly, Marvel's golden boy and Bob Harass's favorite writer is not happy with Marvel these days. After the X-Nightmare and the cancelling/uncancelling runaround on Deadpool he's thinking seriously about going to DC. If not exclusivly than at least for the majority of his monthly output. Maybe he'll find some stability.
Regular reader Scott Dunbier e-mails to tell us that Gen 13 isn't being relaunched in April. Time to strangle a certain source…
Marvel Hold On…
Dan Jurgens was on hand to clarify Warren Ellis' comments that he had left Superman and DC for Marvel. Apparently, while he does indeed discussing Marvel projects, he also has a number of ongoing DC projects too, it's just Superman he's leaving.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: A P/Review
By Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.
Based on a photocopy of all the lettered pages, mostly inked, some pencilled in black and white.
An England designed by Isombard Kingdom Brunel. A hundred years ago. Campion Bond and Wilhemina Murray stand at Dover docks. Campion strikes a match. He starts the fire…
On the edge of a new century, a group of men and women are gathering and being recruited. It's basically The Justice League Of Britannia on a member scout. Some are more willing than others. And foreigners are the enemy.
The first issue suffers from a plot getting in the way of the characters, it drags them kicking and screaming into a number of set pieces – but then that's the nature of this beast. It merges the structure of a superhero team origin story with stitled Victorian novel. It's a brilliant comparison and it works, in the same way Scream 2 works by being worse than Scream… because that's what sequels are all about.
Technology slams violently into a world not yet ready, the Industrial Revolution being outmatched by Captain Nemo and his remarkable machines. He appears like a god and behaves like one too, evolving passed humanity. Nemo is wonderfully realised, an embittered Indian acting more as a courier of others. He's the offworlder, his presence moved by plot. He's Aquaman, his presence having to be justified in every team book he's in.
Most modern period fiction insists on having feminist characters. they all have to be strong, independent women (often with cleavage to match). Moore does some serious twisting here, Wilhemina is described by one character as manly and yet often plays the classic victim role.
In Paris, again a remarkable sight, the oddities atop its rooftops extending further into madness and an old evil resurfaces on the streets, as Wilhemina, a dominator of Alan Quatermain, a knife wielding victim, and a prime mover in the League dresses as a prostitute, waiting to be attacked. She is, and her cleavage is exposed.
Alan Quatermain is the blank here. An incompetant opium muddled fool, he still gets it together to save Wilhemina but fails everywhere else. He seems a liability in this state and it may be some time before both his and Wilhemina's usefulness is apparent.
Moore has a real feel for the period and genre, specifically the lead up to Jekyll And Hyde. Like many Victorian fantasy fictions, if you knew the initial concept before reading the book, the initial start is infuriating. The character are often blind fools who cannot see the obvious in front of them and the book spends half its time setting up the fantasy before it is revealed. So it is here, the final scene blindingly obvious, the reader left screaming at the book as it drage through the last few pages but is rewarded by yet another wonderful Kevin O'Neill creation.
League is not another Supreme, 1963 or Spawn and it has more in common with V For Vendetta, Marvelman, BoJeffries Saga, etc. I don't see this appealing to many mainstream superhero readers… the structure is there but, as with Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, the surface details may put many readers off. Equally, a certain simplicity may deter people who have been following Big Numbers, Lost Girls and From Hell.
So maybe this will alienate many of Moore's recent readers. Or maybe, just maybe, it'll provide a common and accessible point for all. You want to find out which? Then buy it in January…
Dateline: 23 November 1998
|A Marvellous Tale Of Derring Do.|
A new source sends the news from Marvel that Jerry Calabrese "was given a "quit or be fired" ultimatum because his planned cuts weren't spartan enough for the board's tastes. Word is post-bankruptcy Marvel has a $200,000,000 loan of a sword hanging over their heads that they have to pay the interest on monthly or Chase Manhattan Bank gets the company, and that's the board's only real focus."
You thought that the Christmas firings had come early this year? Think again… looks like the cuts are going deeper than anyone thought. We also hear that "Shooter remains, at this point in time, a distant possibility, but as he got the E-I-C job in the first place by telling Stan he could make the trains run on time, he might just try the same stunt."
Our source continued that with regard to the firing of Joey Calmari from Marvel, the reasons we stated were only contributory ones. The reason Calamari (or Squid, as he's naturally known) was fired was that "everyone knew it would happen. He was Carl Icahn's handpicked man. The battle for Marvel was between Perelman's faction (currently manifested in Toy Biz, another Perelman company), Icahn's faction and Chase Manhattan Bank. When Icahn got dominance, Perelman's people were purged, which was when Calamari got the nod. It was fully expected that if Perelman's people got control again — which is what happened — Icahn's people would be purged, esp. since they hadn't exactly set the world on fire. (Not that anyone could, since it was virtually impossible to do anything with Marvel due to the legal wranglings.) Since the Squid was Icahn's man, he was ipso facto out, purged with everyone else. Very Stalinist, but that's how these guys think."
Our source concluded "Fascinating to watch all this. Funny thing is that if Shooter gets the publisher post, his aspirations are going to make Calabrese's look absolutely minimalist by comparison.
Dateline: 22 November 1998
|Gates Now Closing|
One of the very few things that Marvel has been congratulated for in the last few years has been the gatefold covers. By providing this space to recap the previous issue, characters or storyline, it has led to instant access for new readers. And it only cost an extra 4 cents on the cover price. Well, apparently they cost too much and the new ToyBiz board has decided to scrap them. Hey ho, at least we've still got Deadpool. For now.
Mark Waid would like to comment on the recent 'words' Alex Ross is reported to have said about Kingdom and the upcoming Waid-written Kingdom Week:
Fresh from the Eidos Acquisition news, it seems that Top Cow will cancel Spirit Of Tao and Ascension. Tao has been getting good reviews, but I guess it wouldn't make a very good computer game. Too wordy.
We're pleased to report on what we have previously called the Chris Bachalo Creator-Owned Project. Here's the forwarded word from Jeph Loeb.
Thanks for that, Jeph. A few personal comments… this end of 1999 thing seems to tie in with the complaint we've heard about Vertigo having too long lead-in times. It's this aspect that we've heard disturbs Chris Bachalo and that's why he's considering a move to Cliffhanger… and of course, since Cliffhanger/Wildstorm is now owned by DC, they can keep the name! Of course, this could just be creator mumblings, but let's see, eh?
Amongst the other stories we've been covering recently, Warren Ellis also reports that "Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway have left the Superman books and DC for Marvel."
Dateline: 21 November 1998
|Strategic Something Or Other.|
Well, the word from Top Cow has come down… ish. After a phonecall or seven to their PR peep, Kate Sherwood, when asked if Eidos now owned or part owned Top Cow, she would only reply that Top Cow was "not owned by Eidos". When asked if Eidos had bought a significant share, she said "actually… er… hold on…" After a minute or two on hold, the word was that Top Cow and Eidos had a strategic alliance where Eidos get first look at all Top Cow property for Eidos exploitation, and this was the only answer she'd give to the previous question.
So, it looks to me that, yes, Eidos have acquired a significant part of Top Cow. Maybe that will grow in time, maybe not. If this is the case, then one Eidos employee is exaggerating the truth by claiming that Top Cow are wholly owned by Eidos.
Mike Doran, fancy cracking this one?
Shooter On Hand
As Jerry Calabrese leaves Marvel citing all manner of obstruction and naughty things, Eric Ellenbogan, a current member of the Marvel Board of Directors (read Toybiz and friend of Avid Arad) takes his place. Other friends of Eric include one Jim Shooter, having been the project manager for Broadway Comics (remember them? Another of the many Jim Shooter associated comic lines that bit the dust leaving pissed off folks).
Nothing confirmed, but the word at Marvel is that they expect Shooter back.
Vote Nixon! Vote Often! Vote Now!
Dateline: 20 November 1998
|Finnegan Begin Again|
Gen 13, the popular Wildstorm title, is due for a relaunch under its new DC ownership in April.
Sighs Of A Cow
Talking of company ownership, just what is the deal between Top Cow and Eidos? We're getting a number of reports about a major deal between the two. It seems that Eidos have purchased a share of Top Cow. But how much? One source says half, but another source who spoke to a senior Eidos employee says that Eidos have purchased the whole shebang.
Officially, Eidos US are saying "no comment", Top Cow are saying nothing so far and Eidos UK have said they'll try and get back to us on Monday. Top Cow are still at Image and there doesn't seem any danger of them leaving yet. And why should they? Top Cow probably get more out of Image than not being at Image. For now. I guess we can look forward to more and more Tomb Raider comics…
However this could be another example of the comics industry fleeing for cover. And Marc Silvestri sitting back and counting the profits. Let's see, eh?
The fate of Chris Bachalo's creator-owned title is in the balance. While Chris was itching for a return to his old publisher, DC/Vertigo, the long Vertigo lead times and a certain perceived reticence on Karen Berger's part means that Chris Bachalo may look to the Wildstorm Cliffhanger imprint. Makes sense… most of Cliffhanger seem to owe a lot to Chris Bachalo's style as it is… I wonder how long it'll be until the grand daddy of them all, Art Adams brings Monkeyman And O'Brien to Cliffhanger?
Usenet has been abuzz with the news that DC editor KC Carlson and ex-DC staffer Johanna Draper are engaged. To all things, a balance, James Robinson is to divorce and has moved in with his writing partner David Goyer…
Alex Ross has been curring loose about the Kingdom Event again. He says that he hates Kingdom, considers DC to be bastards, incensed by the lack of credit in the Kingdom Event and considers the whole affair to be personally offensive.
Ramblings '98 readers can hear more from Alex Ross next week, in another exclusive interview extract from Tripwire.
Harris Back From The Dead
Lazarus Five is a new creator-owned series for DC, written by Tony Harris and drawn by the members of the Jolly Roger studio. Another Harris book under the same deal for DC is "Johnny Ten Shins" or something similar, although an artist has yet to confirmed. The previously mentioned Harris Starman painted project, sadly now looks dead in the water.
Dateline: 04 November 1998
|Diamond Geezers II|
More on the Diamond UK move… a more exact location is Warrington, in Cheshire, near Manchester. But only the warehouses will move, the offices will move soemwhere else in London.
Grant Morrison is peeved and throwing some of his weight about, apparently the Hypertime concept was his original idea. He thinks that Karl Kesel and Mark Waid are taking credit for the revamp of the DC Universe that was basically his idea.
Anyway, Morrison is DJing in Manchester on Friday evening if anyone fancies a boogie. He's not depressed about the comic industry and is confidentally expecting a boom between now and 2002. A couple of publishers have noted an increase in Diamond's orders this month… could we possibly be seeing the end of the slump? Quick, quick, everyone launch a new superhero universe immediately before it's too late!
The Title To This Story Is Longer Than The Story Itself.
Marvel Magazine is to be absorbed into Previews.
Dateline: 03 November 1998
|Fit The Crime|
Cruel And Unusual is a new Vertigo mini-series by Jamie Delano, Tom Peyer and John McCrea for 1999. It's a satire about privatised prisons and Stuart Moore describes it as "pretty disgustingly funny". Delano's work has a real edge about it that the likes of Ellis and Ennis rarely reach, so I've tended to buy anything and everything with his name on it in the nineties and have yet to be disappointed.
Also, in a previous item, I stated "Also at DC, there's a lot of talk about the survival of Vertigo recently." It's been pointed out that this reads as if the talk is at DC. It isn't, just the story is about DC. The talk is among British creators for DC. Apologies for not making this clear.
Licence To Shill
On e-mail, someone tells us that they've heard rumours that DC are sniffing around Dark Horse to pick up some licences or titles or some such thing and asks if I've heard anything. Not until now, matey. Any truth in this one people?
Diamond UK is leaving London and moving to Manchester. Why? well, Manchester property costs less than London and the overheads are lower. They aren't actually firing anyone per se, but I doubt that many will want to make the move, unless they really are "mad for it". So, Manchester comic geeks, send your resumes in Diamond's direction.
Dateline: 02 November 1998
We've heard news from comics creators that a high-level Time Warner meeting took place with all the Vice Presidents and above present. At that meeting was Ted Turner, who stated that Time Warner own three of the most prominent US icons… Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman and that none of them are being exploited properly.
His suggestion after looking at the situation? For a start, Batman should be taken away from DC Comics and handed to the Cartoon Network to manage, publish and exploit.
More Bloody X-Shit!
Cable snuffs it, X-Men and X-Force go bi-weekly in the summer so Marvel can fit their respective 100th issues into 1999, for a possible renumbering in January 2000.
What's happening in the first six issues of Gambit? Right, mover-and-shaker, New Son helps save Gemabit's life and persuades him to steal him stuff, from Chinese temples to Muir island. New characters include an architect called Sekmeht Conoway (who falls for Gambit big time), mecenaries known as the Mengo Brothers and a mutant called the Pig who Gambit knows from his Mysterious Past TM. Look for more Guild stuff with Fenris, Baron Strucker, Sgt Fury and the Howling Commandos. Hmmm.
The Plot Thins…
You won't be hearing any such gossip from the lips of the likes of Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek. Fed up of columns like this one leaking news, they're keeping schtum about upcoming plotlines to their books, even to their editors.
Good idea… because how do you think we hear about most of this stuff anyway? Looks like we'll have to resort to the old fashioned menthod… getting them drunk at conventions and turning the dictaphone on.
Where In The World Is The DC Multiverse?
Theories abound on the DC Universe after the upcoming events in Superboy and Kingdom. Roll the dice:
The DC Universe will split into a multiverse with each universe having its own continuity, including the new universe shown in Crisis On Infinite Earths 4.5.
The 'real' Superboy is to return. How? Well, whatever happened to the Superboy of Earth Prime? Could this by the surprise ending to the Hypertime serial in Superboy?
Superman will be killed by Gog, replaced with an older, wiser version of Superman, or Gog will destroy much of the USA to set up the events of Kingdom Come.
Thank goodness for the Elmo Health Warning, eh readers?
The Human Target is actually and finally coming out… look for February for this Pete Milligan/Edvin Biukovic series with Tim Bradstreet covers (and there's no one standing against a wall in shades on the first cover at least! Woo!)
Build A New Jerusalem.
Like the new Vertigo action figures? We know that Swamp Thing and Wesley Dodds are up first, but DC are also considering a Spider Jerusalem figure. As anyone who read the last Transmetroploitan might assume, Warren Ellis seems to have… interesting views on merchandising. Let's see, eh?