Ramblings – 23th June 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: 23 Jun 1998
The One Where Ross Goes On A Lot

Thanks to the Comics Forum for the following candid snippets. We get some low down goss on some of comics’ greats. First, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid and Kingdom Come. Alex Ross was talking to editor Dan Raspler about a writer for the Kingdom Come project. “I was asking him for someone who would be a well-accepted writer by DC Comics, someone they had faith in, and there wasn’t going to be any political problems. In Kurt’s case, there had been some problems, negative relationship stuff there, so again, I wasn’t going to go back to Kurt because he’d be a blockade, as opposed to an asset. When Dan recommended Mark, he sold Mark as, “Well, he’s the biggest fanboy in the world, he knows all about these DC characters, he’s doing terrific work on the Flash.” – which he was, I really enjoyed the stuff they sent me – but he also had the worst possible past relationship with DC that no-one had told me about. He was the only person in ten years that ever got fired from the damn place – I mean fired! So there was this enormous bad blood relationship that no one had told me about… I said I wanted someone that they didn’t hate, and they did hate him.”

Thankfully everything turned out for the best. Ross also touched on something we recently touched on our original Kingdoms series article (now a 7 part series called Kingdoms Event… check Newsarama for details).

Ross states that he was going to have the same role on this that he does on Astro City, covers, character designs etc. However, DC didn’t know what they wanted to do with the series, just that they wanted to do it because it would make money. Apparently all that existed were present day stories about the Magog character, something Ross wasn’t happy with. He saw Magog as a parody of the Image characters, something they were slamming, not glorifying.

There’s a lot of history associated with this project, something we hope to dig up.

Constant Whine

Look forward to a new John Constantine four-part mini from Jamie Delano. Initially called The Bastard, it’ll have to be changed for American distribution niceties. It’s set in 2025 and stars a Constantine in his seventies, involved in a royalist plot to maintain the monarchy. At the time, Tony Blair is about to be made president of a new puritan UK republic and install the bastard grandchild of Saint Diana on the empty throne.

As to Delano’s views on Ennis’ and later versions of the character, he really wishes John would get back to drinking G&T’s rather than Guinness.

Shadows of the Bat

Judge Dredd creator Alan Grant’s post-Batman Batman work continues apace. He’s not the world’s happiest bunny over the regular series firings but he’s doing a sequel to the recent alien abduction story and is working on an Elseworlds story where Bruce Wayne is The Demon.

Dateline: 20 Jun 1998
Vertigo Variety

Did you all love the Weird War mini from Vertigo recently? Well, look forward to a follow up one shot with work by Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and others with a Tim Bradstreet cover.

Bradstreet is also doing the covers for Hellblazer, and it seems that John Higgins’ stint as artist isn’t going to be a permanent one. Warren Ellis’ run will have a rotating roster of artists although Higgins will draw the first arc to maintain some continuity between Ellis’ and Ennis’ run.

The Human Target, by Pete Milligan, will be drawn by writer/artist Darko Macan.

House on the Badlands is an adaption of a novel and will have art supplied by Rich Corben.

And on a personal note, I hope DC gives Darco Macan an ongoing series. He’s bloody brilliant, so he is and his writing shouldn’t be kept purely for the short stories.

Mike notes: Darko Macan’s short story Apocalypse appears in X-Flies Bug Hunt #3.

Dateline: 17 Jun 1998
Pardon our Kryptonite

A DC insider on the Superman titles tells us:

“While you’re right about the Bat-books you’re completely wrong about the Superman books. There have been no mass firings of the writers.”

We apologize for the mistake, and hope to have further clarification soon.

Waiding in the Green

In case you haven’t heard by now, Parade Magazine, a Sunday newspaper supplement distributed in the United States, had the cover story “What People Earn.” Who should be peering out from the front cover than Mark Waid, along with his salary of $250,000.

To relate that sum to the world of small publishing, that’s about 10 times the total gross of all Twist and Shout titles ever published. Who says “working for the man” doesn’t pay? Not that Waid doesn’t deserve it, as one of perhaps a dozen comics writers who can “open” a book the way Tom Cruise “opens” a movie… (The others are left as an exercise to the reader, but you can figure Moore, David, Morrison, Ennis, Ellis, and Claremont are right up there.)

To relate that sum to the rest of the entertainment world, Celine Dion is listed as having made $34 million in the same period. And just for singing overwrought ballads for every “date movie” ever produced. Blearg. I’d take the iceberg any day…

Spawn Of The Devil

Well, since Mike Meyer’s been putting it in his sig recently…

Twist And Shout’s latest project will explore the reasons a dead mercenary sent to hell does a deal with a devil to return as a super powerful demonic entity, but instead of hanging around with the homeless, mooning over a woman and beating up thugs and angels, instead becomes a semi-successful New York stand up comedian with a penchant for soup.

Spawnfeld. By Mike Meyer, Lance Gueck and Rich Johnston. Coming late 1998 from Twist And Shout Comics. We’ll probably shove Flies In Black in the back. More details when we think of them.

One Eyed Mark

Remember the Kingdoms series that Mark Waid was meant to be writing after Kingdom Come? The one that was meant to set up a possible Kingdom Come future? The one that caused a lot of in-fighting between the creators involved about timeliness and professionalism?

Kingdoms is a 9 issue ‘theme week’ from DC for the end of 1998, all written by Mark Waid, based on the DC Universe of characters. Frank Quitely will be drawing one of the books. More information as we get it.

Star Men

DC’s Starman will be co-written by James Robinson and David Goyer. Goyer was Jason Robinson’s co-writer on the now aborted Freddy vs. Jason movie.

Robinson and Goyer will also be working on a new Justice Society title set in modern day. The book will star Sentinel (original Green Lantern), Jay Garrick (original Flash) and an array of new characters.

Batrumours

More reports come in to Ramblings ’98 on the firings of the DC Batman writers come in after our previous post. One has the faxes being sent out simultaneously as the last thing before closing down the office that evening, so all creators involved would have to wait until the morning to speak to their editor. One has one of the writers ringing up Danny O’Neill to ask for input into the latest Batman story he was writing, being told that he would be faxed some input and then getting the firing fax.

What seems clear is that the No Man’s Land Batman arc is being used as an excuse to get fresh blood into the Batman franchise, or to exercise stronger editorial control. It is being presented as a temporary measure, with the writers returning later. The creators involved believe that it is permanent.

Can anyone else remember Chris Claremont’s ‘sabattical’ from X-Men?

Shopping List

Look, if you didn’t pick up the new Stinz, White Death, Acme Novelty Library, Hate or Deadpool in the last few weeks you’re a fool to yourself. Top comics, one and all!

What are we going to do tomorrow, Brain?

We’ve heard from a retailer with a reliable connection that DC will be cancelling Pinky and The Brain, at least as a regular title. Pinky and The Brain was a very underrated title, with writing every bit as sharp as the TV series. It will be missed, and yet another slender connection to the mainstream goes away…

Dateline: 12 Jun 1998
Dark Knight Of The Long Knives or World’s Greatest Sackings

Big changes at the departments of Superman and Batman were announced. On the Batman side, all writers on the books have been simultaneously sacked. But how was this acheived? Writers Alan Grant, Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon were fired by fax from different fax machines sent at the same time, to stop the writers talking to each other before they’d all been informed.

The editorial team thanked the creators for their work but told them that their work was no longer required. DC knew that all the writers worked well together and kept in touch all the time and realised that firing them one at a time would lead to… complications.

Apparently DC decided the Supes and Bat books need a creative rethink, although planned plot lines will still continue. Batman joins Superman’s numbering system, making all titles into one title. The ‘triangle’ Superman device may be adapted.

As a result of the firing, Kelly Jones, Graham Nolan and Mark Buckingham have all decided to also leave their pencilling chores on all the books and are lining up other projects.

Grant, Moench and Dixon all had other books set up for them before they were fired (Anarky, Gotham City and Nightwing) but the writers were led to believe that these titles were ‘additional’ work, not actual replacement books.

Comment is sought on this story.

Following Up Chase

After the recent DC cuts, Chase artist JH Williams isn’t taking the news badly. He’s just signed up to do a couple of issues of the X-Men and a Wolverine one shot written by Doug Moench and a 96 page Superman Elseworld hardcover book, written by Howard Chaykin for next year.

Strip Wire

The British comics/music magazine Tripwire is not letting being dropped by Diamond affect its cheery mood, with an original Luther Arkwright cover and feature for its November issue, followed by an original Hellboy piece for its January issue. Now if only they could get back in Diamond. Ah well, there’s always the single figure orders from FM, I suppose…

And the NeXt...

So which X-Men character hasn’t had a mini-series yet… the very first X-Man himself, Professor Charles Xavier. The book will take place in two timelines, the present day and just before he formed the team. As to the creative team… there isn’t one, it’s just an editorial plan so far. Don’t you just love comics by committee?

Dateline: 11 Jun 1998
We’d like to thank Mania’s Newsarama, by Mike Doran for mentioning our column recently on his column. Now all we need is the name of the column being mentioned and the web address and we’d be sitting pretty. Anyway, let’s return the favour.

Another Pun Involving The Word ‘Grant’

Despite Grant Morrison’s assurance on Mania’s Newsarama that he’s writing JLA for the long haul, Ramblings ’98 would like to reiterate our assurance that he’s not. He’ll certainly be off the book by the end of next year, the issue number 36 is being bandied about. There’s still the matter of the Frank Quitely/Grant Morrison JLA graphic novel, and then there’s a few Superman/Batman projects that Morrison is interested in pursuing. As to the JLA, he plans a couple of JLA/JSA crossover events, this year and next.

We have confirmation that The Invisibles ends after it’s upcoming third arc. The TV series is going slow, and we might even see the film first. The “seventies detectives” characters will be prominent (despite their treatment being a complete rip off of The Comic Strip Presents’ Bullshitters and Detectives On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakdown) and Morrison is looking for Frank Quitely to draw an arc.

Possible Authority

On Warren Ellis’ Delphi forum, Ellis states “Stormwatch will go away with #11. But, something of great interest to all Stormwatch readers is intended to happen exactly four weeks after that, and monthly thereafter. This is the plan…. all I can say is stay tuned for more details… And you’ll see Stormwatch Black sooner than you think.”

Just thought I’d keep you up to date. Mike Doran? Does this count as confirmed cancellation of Stormwatch yet? And the Stormwatch Black section seems to nicely tie in with what we reported in the original Authority Figures news story.

Silly Diamond

The countdown for Joe Chiapetta’s Silly Daddy continues. We previously reported that Diamond has given them an ultimatum based on the sales for Silly Daddy #18, which was offered in the May Previews. Diamond starts sending out purchase orders for that issue of Previews on June 16, so Joe should know the outcome pretty soon, give or take the normal few days it takes for Diamond to get final orders out.

Joe assures us that Silly Daddy will go on with or without Diamond. Joe does sell the book through magazine distributors, which accounts for about a third of his current sales. This controversy about the book may help it get some well-deserved attention, and Diamond certainly gave Silly Daddy #18 a good listing in the catalog, complete with the coveted “Diamond Spotlight”, and a color graphic. From the solicitation blurb, the issue actually sounds pretty interesting and accessible, too.

Hope springs eternal. If this last best push in the direct market doesn’t work, Silly Daddy will survive, but be a lot harder to find. And as far as Britain goes, it will be probably bloody impossible.

Little Bits of Oni.

Shannon Stewart, Director of Marketing for Oni Press is nicking off. He’d been with the company since before their first Bad Boy release but is looking for non-comics stuff. They haven’t got a replacement yet and aren’t seeking a replacement yet. Damn, otherwise I’d have applied. I’ve got lots of copies of Trident and Crisis they could raid for material…

Word has it that Oni Press is about to go into a fourth printing on the Clerks comic book. Apparently the book has sold around 65,000 copies so far, and the fourth printing is expected to take sales up to the 80,000 copy mark. Soon more people will have read the comic than have watched the film! 8-)

Keep an eye on the names attached to Oni Double Feature issues. Seems that they have a definite strategy to the book — couple a name-creator with a built-in audience along with a very talented newcomer, and watch the newcomer’s stock rise to the point where he can carry his own book. Excellent way to build a stable of talent, and we’ll likely be seeing much more work from the folks appearing in Double Feature. Some of the folks slated for future issues will be a pleasant surprise, too

Hulk Talk

Well, Byrne’s been assuring Newsarama that he’s not going to “smash” Hulk continuity. And as to how he and artist Ron Garney got the gig… to quote Newsarama quoting Ron Garney briefly “I knew the Hulk was basically up for grabs, did a little investigating and then Matt (Idelson, Captain America: Sentinel editor and all round good guy) and I talked and I asked him to look into getting the title because I knew Bobbie Chase wanted to give it up. During that time John called me to ask if I was under exclusive contract with Marvel because he was looking to possibly revamp a couple of DC characters. Since I am under contract I declined on that, and asked him if the Hulk was something he’d be interested in working with me on. He said absolutely. Timing is everything and things just sort of fell into place.”

Since Ron knew Bobbie was leaving the book, we reckon he told John Byrne that. It has been stated that Byrne has a big problem with Bobbie Chase as editor, and what better time to join the book just as she is leaving?

The Gossip Factor

Despite what he may have to say about this very column, writer Nat Gertler’s upcoming new self-published book The Factor looks really good, with a wide range of story material, and a great lineup of artists involved, including Carla ‘Speed’ McNeil (Finder). The cover for the #1 issue also has an excellent pedigree, coming from Spawn animator Mike Vossberg. Buy this book so that Nat is too busy to give us a hard time on Usenet.

Dateline: 05 Jun 1998
Hulk Smashed?
(Commentary)

Mike Doran’s Newsarama announcement of the appointment of John Byrne as the new Incredible Hulk writer causes me to ponder:

Firstly, if Bobbie Chase had not left the book, John Byrne would not have taken the role as writer. This has been made clear in the past, he won’t work with her after his original stint on The Sensational She-Hulk. Question is, did John take the book because Bobbie left or did Bobbie leave because someone else wanted John to take the book?

Secondly, John Byrne and Peter David’s relationship has never been a smooth one. They’ve both sided with each other when it comes to mutual foes such as Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen, but the letters of CBG made clear that it was a grudging union. Byrne’s respect for contuinity is infamous, from the clean slate of Superman, the disregard for Kurt Busiek’s Amazing Fantasy in Spider-Man: Twice Told Tales and his desire to write Doom Patrol wiping out all of Grant Morrison’s run. With his lack or respect for David and David’s work, who knows what “damage” he may cause to David continuity? Just as much as if they’d hired Erik Larsen, I reckon.

Thirdly, Pat O’Neill reported that David left Hulk because Marvel wanted a series of company events with Hulk at the centre that David wasn’t happy with. Presumably Byrne has to fit in with this company vision if he takes on the book? If the book has a heavy X-like control then Byrne simply isn’t going to stand for it, he doesn’t take heavy handed editorial manipulation well. I reckon staff are going to have to tip toe around Byrne a lot more than they did with David.

Fourthly, reckon we’ll get the Hulkbusters back?

Dateline: 03 Jun 1998
You say Gay-sha, I say Gee-sha…

Geisha is a new sci-fi series by Skeleton Key creator, Andi Watson, to be published in August/September by Oni Press.

It tells the story of a female android artist, shunned by her peers, who enters her family business as a bodyguard.

Mike adds:

A striking cover, the sort of thing that would likely look right at home at the local coffeehouse. Heck, I’d hang this on my wall. Leave it to Oni to just keep getting better and more adventurous.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t beleive that Oni Press is our best hope for expanding our industry into the hearts and minds of the mainstream?

By Whose Authority?

WARNING: The following article contains repeated Usenet quotations and scurrilous presumptions and assumptions from myself. It also goes on a bit. Thise who couldn’t care less can skip it. It was also written in my lunch break, so it probably suffers from hunger deprevation.

In the previous article, A Minor Hitch, Bryan Hitch is quoted by Robin Riggs as saying “Warren and I have discussed a project beyond our current commitment at Wildstorm. At this stage it is a miniseries and nothing to do with the Wildstorm universe. It has certainly not been approved or scheduled.”

In Mania’s Newsarama column, Mike Doran reports from Warren Ellis, writing “but Ellis has confirmed that he and Hitch WILL continue to work on a WSU project together following the what promises to be big events of this summer’s WILDCATS/ALIENS special.”

WSU stands for WildStorm Universe. Hitch and Ellis seem to contradict each other. Ellis’ statement is more in keeping with our original Authority Figures article, withdrawn at the request of Bryan Hitch.

Since the original Authority Figures article, there has been a lot of debate on Usenet’s rec.arts.comics.misc. One of the most prominent speakers has been Supergirl inker Robin Riggs, reported friend and confident of Bryan Hitch. Despite originally rubbishing the original Authority Figures and being party to the denial by Bryan Hitch, he posted in reply to Newsarama’s Mike Doran’s querioes about the truth of the Authority Figures article. He wrote “I now know where Rich got the info, I now know whether or not it’s accurate, and guess what Michael, I CAN’T SAY. Do you really have that much trouble with the concept of confidentiality? What I can tell you is that the info Bryan gave out was for publication in several MONTH’S time.”

While Riggs deliberately does not confirm the Authority Figures’ truthfulness, he seems to confirm that the information given out as intended for publication eventually. If the information in the Authority Figures article was inaccurate, then why did Bryan Hitch intend it for publication?

I’d like to offer my own summation of this entire affair as I see it. Others may see it differently. Bryan Hitch talked to a comic book journalist in an interview and gave this journalist the information printed in the Authority Figures article. He in no way indicated that this information was confidential, or time sensitive. This information was also accurate at the time. This journalist passed on the information over a phone call to me, originally about the Comics ’99 convention in Bristal next year. Again, there was no indication that the information was confidential or needed to be confidential. It was the “latest news”.

I submitted the information to Ramblings ’98 and e-mailed Wildstorm for further information, with no reply, as of yet.

I understand that Wildstorm then directly contacted Bryan Hitch to express their displeasure. I assume the individual expressing concern was Wildstorm editor Scott Dunbier. Bryan Hitch then called the comic book journalist and requested that I remove the article, which I did. Through Robin Riggs (although who initiated this I don’t know), a reply was sent to rec.arts.comics.misc from Bryan Hitch, which I decided to submit to Ramblings ’98 to replace the Authority Figures article.

The information in that post has been directedly contradicted by Warren Ellis in Newsarama and I have deduced a contradiction by Robin Riggs in rec.arts.comics.misc.

My observations have led me to believe that the original story was true, that Wildstorm were upset about its leaking and that, either at their bequest or in an attempt to recitify the situation, Bryan Hitch submitted a contradictory statement.

Again, I find Wildstorm’s approach a tad distorted… they seem happy to use internet rumours for their own publicity (Ramblings passim) but then get uppity when the internet, as it so often does, throws its riders mid stream.

Whether the original news story is now valid, I don’t know. It certainly seems that it was when first published. If I ran Wildstorm and wanted to show that I was in control, I go along with plans as normal and maybe request a name change to the project. “The Watchmen” has a nice ring to it….

As to my “reputation” ascribed to me by Bryan Hitch; since Robin Riggs stated that Bryan Hitch has never had any previous dealings with me, I presume again that this reputation came from Robin Riggs and I offer another post from rec.arts.comics.misc by Kevin Maroney that may offer some clarification.

“Just for the record, if Rich Johnston were to tell me that he’d heard that the sky had turned brown and Robin Riggs said it were blue, I’d wonder who had managed the change-over.”

Regarding the original Authority Figures article, I stand by my story.

Send Them Back

DC’s main marketing guy Bob Wayne is over in England, and has taken time to talk to Kev Sutherland about the upcoming Comics ’99 convention event in Bristol next year. Looks like DC will be there in a BIG way.

JLA editor Dan Raspler is also in the country, albeit a different one. He’s joined Grant Morrison and gf Victoria in a pub crawl around the Highlands.

Any more of you lot coming over for spurious reasons? Anyone wanting to show portfolios is advised to hang around the departure and arrival lounges.

Dateline: 01 Jun 1998
A Minor Hitch.

****WARNING. ***

THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE, AUTHORITY FIGURES HAS BEEN REPLACED.

Ramblings ’98 stand by our original story concering Stormwatch. However, at the request of Bryan Hitch, the story has been pulled. We reprint the Usenet article posted by Robin Riggs:

Rich Johnston is obviously taking several rumours and putting them together. This should in no way be taken as factual information. Warren and I have discussed a project beyond our current commitment at Wildstorm. At this stage it is a mini series and nothing to do with the Wildstorm universe. It has certainly not been approved or scheduled. Unless heard from Wildstorm, Warren or myself, information on this project should be treated as inaccurate.

I suggest that anyone reading ‘Ramblings 98’ should take Rich Johnston’s reputation into account when reading his “news” and await official press releases from Wildstorm.

— Bryan Hitch.

Richard Johnston’s note: We didn’t take several rumours, we took one story, reportedly from Bryan Hitch’s own words. We suggest that regular readers enjoy the knowledge gleaned from this column and suggest that you go to the Mania website to await Wildstorm’s official press release when it arrives.

***WE NOW RETURN YOU TO OUR REGULAR SERVICE***

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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