Ramblings – 30th April 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.

What is Ramblings 98?

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: 30 April 1998
The Thirteenth Floor.

So what's happening on the 13th floor since ex-Event chappies, Joe Quesada and Jimmie Palmiotti moved in? Well a few unofficial words slipped out on the upcoming titles…

The Inhumans will be written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Jae Lee. The book will look at the Inhumans whole island and life, rather than interacting with the Marvel Universe. During the series, the characters will undergo serious redefining. So that's the end of Hellshock, anyway.

Daredevil by Kevin Smith, Quesada and Palmiotti is still well under wraps, but we do know that the book will tackle Matt Murdoch's loss of faith. Dr Strange... less of the spells, Tony Harris, Dan Jolly.

Bernie Wrightson will give The Punisher a good makeover and we can celebrate Christopher Priest's arrival on Black Panther. T'challa's arrival in New York is rather spoilt by a short white government agent who insists on hanging around… Quantum And Woody 2 anyone?

A Pun Involving The Word 'Grant'.

As previous mentioned, Morrison is off JLA shortly, but that hasn't stopped DC shipping him in for a JLA conference. And apparently the Morrison and Quitely JLA graphic novel previously mentioned has yet to be proposed to DC.

Remember when we told you that Grant may be doing the US thing in a semi-permanent way? Well, Grant Morrison doesn't like New York. We're informed that one of his missions while he was out here was to find a good woman and his mission hasn't been entirely successful. Too many supermodels where he was staying apparently.

The Amazing Adventures Of Rob Liefeld.

One amusing sight on the Marvel 13th floor was Awesome listings from Previews being used as emergency toilet paper. The mood at the US publishers over Awesome's fall is nothing less than amused. It also emerges that Rob Liefeld was looking for freelance for Dark Horse's Star Wars line. They turned him down. It also seems that liefeld is sueing Awesome partners Crossroads from pulling out of Awesome… but can anyone blame them?

Suffer From Vertigo.

New from DC Vertigo, Congo Bill, a miniseries starring Congorilla. Also expect the long promised Human target by Peter Milligan with Tim Bradstreet covers. The Human Target is hired by black minister in New York, afraid for his life. But it seems there are many more than just one Human Target. Oh, and there's a lot about psychology too. Apparently. Oh, just buy the bloody things, I probably will.

Rich Johnston Off To Cape Town, South Africa.

That's right, but it's not permanent. Bob Wayne, stop celebrating right now. Anyway, I'm off for two and a bit weeks… hopefully I'll stay in touch with a cybercafe or two. Either way, Ramblings will have to be a bit restricted, so I'm relyting on Mike Meyer here to do his funky stuff. Keep him on his toes. (Better yet, e-mail me many scoops…)

Oh, and what am I doing in Cape Town? Nothing much, going with my girlfriend to meet her parents, seeing the sights, asking her father for permission to marry her, that kind of thing.

Tell you all how it goes soon. Until then, make mine ramble!

Editor's note: I dunno, sounds like Scott Lobdell has gotten hold of the boy…

Dateline: 27 April 1998
So what's happening at Awesome?

Tune in to Ramblings '98 on May 1st, when we should have more reliable information, but here's a taster from site editor, Mike Meyer.

"The speculation I've heard is that the deal with Crossroads transferred ownership of Supreme, etc. Liefeld isn't doing those books because he doesn't own them any more, which kind of sucks.

Crossroads got cold feet because the books weren't meeting expenses, while Liefeld and his wife were both drawing big salaries. Since Awesome was created to develop movie properties from the characters, they were also put off by Rob making a 7-figure screenplay deal outside of the company rather than bringing The Mark in under the Awesome umbrella.

Why can't the guy just do some books and quit screwing up? There's really no reason for a Rob Liefeld book to lose money, long as you control the expenses. By not figuring this out, it looks to me like he's lost all of his 'original' books: Badrock, Glory, Supreme, etc. Not that Crossroads is ever going to be able to do much with them. It's pretty weak material, and even Warner Bros. is getting leery of comic book-based movies of Superman and Batman. "

Mike Meyer

Dateline: 23 April 1998
Diamond Distress

Joe Chiapetta's excellent comic Silly Daddy is in trouble. Nothing new, its orders have never been that high. It just happens to be a great work of art and Joe has had the diligence to continue the book with critical acclaim if not high profits. Silly Daddy's continued existence however, is proof that the comics can be art.

After numerous messages, Chiapetta reports that Diamond Distribution, the largest and dominant distribution company in the US, Canada and the UK has issued an ultimatum. "If my July shipping Silly Daddy #18 orders don't increase dramatically, then Diamond will no longer carry Silly Daddy."

This is of course Diamond's right. They have made it clear that a title that brings in less than $1000 per issue may not be carried.

Except it's not always that clear cut. Diamond seem to have used that ultimatum against comics and products that they personally dislike. Books like Lethargic Lad, that criticised Diamond, True Swamp with its so called "amateurish artwork" and the list is increasing, the reason given as purely economical.

Except that books that sell less than Silly Daddy (which has criticised Diamond in the past) are still carried, and one's with much less artistic merit. Beacause Diamond still do make a profit from these books, just less of one. And they've made the decision to cut the titles they distribute.

Basically Diamond give one reason for dropping a book while acting on another. So what happens to the dropped books? Most die. Some get taken up by other publishers, just like Lethargic Lad and True Swamp.

Something Diamond may wish to consider is the rise of the alternative distributor. Within weeks of setting up in Britain, Richard Davies' and Knockabout Comics' Red Route Distribution is making large profits, supplying UK comic shops with comics that Diamond UK refuses to supply, at lower discounts than before. Suddenly, Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, Viz and Antarctic comics are creeping up the UK sales charts.

However all these sales don't make up for the initial sales push of Diamond Distribution. It kick starts a comic up the printing/production line. The current direct market depends on Diamond.

So what's the solution? I'd like Diamond to carry many of the items it may be dropping. But they're a business and have their own strategy. But if Diamond cut their line, they could well cut potential customers. And the industry has precious few of these at the moment. The logical conclusion is the end of self publishing except for a few freak examples, the conglomeration of publishers and the return to the "good" old days of publishers you could count on your fingers.

Message to Diamond: Sometimes short term profits should be sacrificed for long term gain.

Message to customers and retailers: Of course, if everyone orders Silly Daddy, then Diamond will have no choice but to carry it. So go to your shop today and place an order for Silly Daddy. the industry is depending on it.

Whatever Happened To…

Luther Arkwright II. Bryan Talbot?

"I have just finished pencilling the new Luther Arkwright graphic novel – 284 pages. Now I have to ink the lot! Ellie de Ville has already lettered the first chapter and is working on 2. The colouring will be by Angus Mckie. To be published by Dark Horse later this year."

Non-line New-line

Lea Hernandez' sequel to Cathedral Child, Clockwork Angels will be published by Iamge Central. She joins Brian Bendis' Jinx, James Hudnall's Espers and Hall Of Heroes, Jimmie Robinson's Evil And Malice and Brian Wood's Channel Zero. And I also hear news that many non-line creators not yet signed up may be forming an imprint of their own to self publish…

Batman/Judge Dredd by Glenn Fabry.

Originally the second Batman/Dredd book, it looks as if it'll now be the fifth. Three years past deadline, the book is finished with a little art assist. And wherefore now Fabry? Off to the States to work on a film as a designer. The movie in question is not yet confirmed, but could it be… Marshal Law?

Dateline: 21 April 1998
Fits And Starts

Devin Greyson is reforming the original Teen Titans team for DC. Nightwing, Tempest, Arsenal, Flash and Donna Troy, with a name change to Titans, along with new members. Between the end of the current series at 24, a JLA/Titans mini-series by Greyson and Phil Jiminez will mark the changes, along with an Arsenal mini-series pencilled by Rick Mays.

Aliens: Apocalypse is coming in October by Mark Schultz and Tim Truman.

Looks like the Ramblings reported Batman/Hellboy/Starman crossover is kicking off, with a Batman/Hellboy followed by a Starman Hellboy written by James Robinson and drawn by Mike Mignola.

After many furtive starts, Micronauts are back. Pending rights negotiation with owner Marty Abrams, Son Bury will write the series with Cary Nord and Dan Green on art.

Kitchen Sink are repackaging Superman newspaper strips for DC, with volumes of Dailies and Sundays being released, featuring Siegel and Schuster's work.

People who have ordered Kitchen Sink's Cages softcover… rejoice! It's going to be a hardcover with no price increase. Watch for a new version in August with a copy of an illustarted CD with music by McKean.

Dateline: 19 April 1998
Oni The Lonely

Who was it who, when questioning the concept of Aquaman, asked "how much crime can there be underwater"?

Oni Press are to launch a new 4-issue miniseries by American crime writer Greg Rucka and artist/nethead Steve Lieber, called Whiteout, a detective story set in the Antarctic.

Covers will be provided by Mike Mignola, Matt Wagner, Dave Gibbons and Steve Lieber.

UKCACBACK?

Comics 99 looks like the title for the UKCAC-replacement next year and Bristol is looking like a probable venue (both Dundee and London are being considered). All major publishers present, a large creator contingent coupled with a high media profile should be good news, as well as the unveiling of the World's Tallest Comic. More news as it arrives.

Low Blow

DC have just signed up a new Lobo series from Alan Grant and Tom Carney, called Stressed To Kill – how will Lobo cope when he's on doctors order not to kill anyone? Tom Carney's spectacular work will also be seen in a yet-unpublished Lobo book and self-publishing looks on the cards…

Dateline: 14 April 1998
Color Me Gone

Fallout continues from the Acclaim and Awesome situations. Service companies are feeling the pinch of so many disappearing titles; Comicraft has laid off some employees as a result of the implosion, and it doesn't take much imagination to forsee further belt-tightening at coloring concerns such as Atomic Paintbrush, who were coloring the bulk of the Acclaim titles.

Dateline: 8 April 1998
Without A Hitch

As exclusively broken on Ramblings '98 ages ago, Stormwatch is to end with issue 11 when the team are killed. Warren Ellis already has his hands full with plenty of projects, but what about artist Bryan Hitch who's already garnering acclaim from those who used to dismiss him as an Alan Davis clone? Well we're pleased to announce that he has a new series with Scott Lobdell in the pipeline for Wildstorm. Story, characters and the deal involved are still under wraps but we'll be taking a peek shortly…

Dateline: 7 April 1998
Sweet Child Of Mine

Being a one shot, Cathedral Child from the non-line, has as a result, not been affected by the shut down. As for future projects, the sequel Clockwork Angels and a series of short graphic novels, Walk The Dinosaur, World Of Fire, Little Runaway and To My Heart have yet to find a home.

Writer/artist Lea Hernandez' manga style has proved popular around the word of mouth and rumours persist that her work will too follow Channel Zero, Jinx and the Hudnall books to Image Central under Larry Marder's wing. The commercial success of Child may no doubt help that. More updates as they occur.

Channel Zero Still On Air

Sources inside Valentino's non-line has promised that Channel Zero, by writer/artist Brian Wood has a future.

Following books like Jinx, Espers, Shut Up And Die and Age Of Heroes, Channel Zero (on my personal pull list) will join Image Central, published by Larry Marder alongside existing books such as Maxx and Kabuki.

Current plans are for no breaks in the schedule. Note: some observers have concluded that the transference of some titiles from Valentino's collapsed non-line to Image central is a case of sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's mostly retailers who say this and I think that its more sorting out the commercial books from the non commercial. Remember, if commerciality was always the deciding point, Acme Novelty Library would not be published.

Ramblings '98 wishes all creators involved with the non-line good luck, whatever they do in and outside. You were part of a bold experiment whose aftershocks will be seen for years to come.

Dateline: 2 April 1998
April Truth

This year's Usenet April Fools blitz was downright odd — it was the year of truths disguised as hoaxes, as TCJ and CBJ announced that Hart Fisher was in fact very much alive, and as DC inker Robin Riggs made a long-awaited announcement that he is engaged to be married.

Neither item was exactly a secret, at least not to the muckraking denizens of Ramblings, though it was somewhat hard in both cases to pin down anyone willing to actually confirm the news on the record.

The past month's events have been an amazing illustration of the speed at which news and misinformation can propagate over the Internet in general, with many people finding out about losing their contracts and jobs via third-party e-mail and being justifiably pissed off.

It's vitally important that companies take the upper hand in improving communication with their staffers, freelancers, and in releasing official announcements over the electronic media. Nobody should have to find out their livelihood is threatened by reading this column, don't you agree?

Kudos to writers Brian Bendis and James Hudnall for keeping people up-to-date, and proactively getting information out there before the speculation and rumors could get out of hand. They seem to have an understanding of the importance of communicating honestly and promptly to their readers. Acclaim, Awesome, Boneyard, and many others in the industry would do well to follow their example, and get with the program of providing information before some idiot with a keyboard makes it up.

— Mike Meyer

Abandon Ship

Jeph Loeb isn't working in the Awesome offices at the moment, preferring the tranquility of his movie production studio, after all of the industry were trying to contact him.

Nevertheless, our intrepid mole tracked him down to get the latest on Awesome. It goes like this, Crossroads, the company that bought Scott Rosenberg's share of Awesome pulled their finance. Harsh? Cruel? Read on… Loeb was in the position of holding all the creators to their contracts or being honest and telling them that Awesome didn't have the money to pay them and letting them go. He chose the latter.

As for the remaining books, the only actual comic that is making a profit for Awesome is Ian Churchill's Coven. Awesome have enough confidence in Re: Gex to keep it going and as for the Jada Pinkett book, we've no idea. However, if out of all the books, only one made profit, Ramblings can see why Crossroads lost confidence in the project.

More as we get it…

Editor's Note: Considering the nature of Hollywood politics, it's almost certain that Rob doesn't want to risk jinxing the Will Smith deal for The Mark. Movie bucks are at stake here, they ride very strongly on personal impressions, kept promises and other intangibles, and they tend to carry many more zeros than comic book deals…

Dateline: 1 April 1998
Financial Grant

As part of our ongoing "just who is Grant Morrison and what does he do" features, we are pleased to report a half page article in this month's FHM on the man. The regular column "I could do that" features a 'comic writer' and presumably after they'd been through Neil and Alan they got to Grant.

Nothing new in the article except a confirmed salary of 200,000 pounds. That's about… what, 300,000 US dollars? That's preumably DC's contract rate for him as an exclusive writer. Not bad really.

And if this is just the blatant exaggeration that he and Mark Millar are prone to make, expect to see the Inland Revenue on them (just like they did when the newspaper The Sun reported Mark Millar to be a multi-millionaire.)

My favourite moment? When Grant says that when deadlines bite he uses an assistant. Not one with fuzzy hair perchance?

Missed In The Notebook

Missed a couple of Dark Horse news items from the UKCAC. Alan Grant and Steve Pugh will be reviving the Terminator licence. Ian Edginton is doing some Aliens stuff with Geoff Darrow on cover duty. Geoff Darrow covers. Joy!

Get Yourself Connected- Attitude Problems.

"Who Do You Love?" screams the TV ad for Burger King. But on the internet, you're known not by who you love but by who you hate.

It can all start innocuously. The stray joking comment with the smiley removed, a disagreement over a review, the questioning of another's intent and before you know it, there's a full scale flame war on your hands.

Some enjoy setting a Usenet newsgroup on fire. Adding a match at the right moment, fuelling the fire and then retreating as it burns down around them. Commonly known as trolls, they are the ones most likely to start up a conversation along the lines of "Just why is Peter David a lesbian dwarf, and why does Garth Ennis spend so much time with him?"

It's no good just ignoring troublestarters, hoping they'd go away, because someone else will pop up shouting "How dare you malign Peter David in this way, he is not a lesbian!" which will set a thread going that will last an eternity. You can challenge them privately by e-mail if you welcome a torrent of flaming faeces in your mailbox. At least if you keep it open, you can get the rest of the newsgroup on your side.

If you're a spoilsport, you can killfile them. Most newsreaders can remove certain individuals from your sight so you need never be bothered by their rantings. Mind you, you will get to see everything else that people say in reply.

The answer? Grin and bear them, I reckon. In fact flamewars can sometimes prove mildly entertaining, and probably the only time you can get away with calling someone "a piece of sunbaked placenta" without getting a broken glass shoved through your face.

Until you meet at a comic convention that is.

Rich Johnston

Un Convention

The news that the Manchester UKCAC will be the final one was greeted with the thread heading "UKCAC R.I.P." on the Comics Animation Forum on Compuserve.

One American's regrets and fears for the British industry were addressed by Dez Skinn. He posted "The industry's doing fine over here. We only dropped (storewise) by about 15% tops over the last few years and retailers I've spoken to are all up on turnover this year. Our (Comics International) circulation keeps moving up, and our ad count getting fatter. The industry's doing fine over here."

"I'd say that the failure of UKCAC is because of the success of single day comic fairs which are prolific for such a small island. We regularly have 8 or so every month, with the bigger ones attracting larger crowds than UKCAC. So fans go to fairs, and UKCAC became a pro-con. There's already something called COMICS 99 being talked about, so I'd say the UKCAC organisers simply got tired after 14 years."

"UKCAC was a perfect watering hole and annual gossip dissemination centre for people in the biz. That side is the possible loss. Fans already have tons of events over here."

Fisher King

The news of Boneyard publisher Hart Fisher's suicide spread quickly over the Internet, somewhat more quickly than it spread to some of his closest friends, apparently. This disconnect with the folks who should have known was just the start of the unravelling of yet another April Fools hoax, though one launched in advance…

Editor's Note: By the time I got our original item formatted for the Web, a joint announcement from The Comics Journal and CBG had appeared confirming that this is indeed a hoax, which is what our investigations had strongly indicated but not conclusively proven.

CBG and TCJ did their homework, however :

  • The newspaper obit circulating around was clearly faked,
  • The Los Angeles Daily News had not published such an obit,
  • the cemetary where Hart was buried is non-existant,
  • and Los Angeles County has no record of Hart's death.

At this point, several of his friends would like to kill him for pulling this stunt, something I experienced first-hand when investigating the item. As of this writing, it's not clear if Hart initiated the stunt, or if indeed, as he claims, he was on vacation and friends orchestrated the ruse. Whichever, he has certainly done in his credibility; it's not likely we'll be seeing any more TCJ assignments in his future.

Wonder And Woody

Quantum And Woody is a book that has proved most popular across the internet. Acclaim's financial worries have caused much consternation as to the book's continued survival. However, life does go on for Q&W creators Mark Bright and Christopher Priest, who will continue their collarboration on DC's Wonder Woman, at least for a short time.

Christopher Priest said, "I've been asked not to comment on the situation at Acclaim, but the Quantum And Woody team will be going onto this Wonder Woman 2-parter after the conclusion of Magnum Force, while Acclaim's publishing plans remain in flux. Beyond that, yes, we're trying to stay together as a team and expect to be pitching… something… to someone… soon." Informative as ever, then.

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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