Ramblings – 29th October 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: 29 October 1998

The House Of Recrimination

More inside gossip at Marvel. The sacking of president Joseph Calimari is more than it seems. Avid Arad, best known for his work for Marvel animation, had been acrimoniously sacked by Joseph in the past. Avid moved to Toy Biz where he is now part of the ruling Marvel class. So guess why Joseph was one of the first to go? Revenge is best served cold at Marvel.

Still, for many Marvel staff, being fired has its benefits. A number have received three months severance payoffs and have already been contacted by DC Comics.

And Time Warner shall inherit the Earth…

On AnotherPlanet

Did you read AnotherUniverse.com/Mania/etc’s reporting of being ‘acquired’ by Steve Geppi? They quoted from his press release but managed to miss any mention that they’d been in financial trouble.

Funny that…

Frank Miller Claims Another

So what’s the reason Chris Bachalo has left X-Men at the end of his Marvel contract? Could it be his much anticipated creator owned project? And someone a little more stable than Marvel? Wait and see…

Gyre and Gamble

Fun times at Abaculus, the British self publishers that publish Six Degrees, Gyre, Love Bomb and Psyence Fiction… their latest issue of Gyre was published and printed and delivered to Diamond UK… but that was the last anyone saw of it for months. Missing the Diamond US deadline, the book was cancelled… except that Diamond had already taken the book. Diamond hadn’t paid for it, and now don’t seem to be able to return the comics. Or to distribute them.

One last thing…

The Comics Creator Guild meet on the last Thursday of every month at the Cartoonist Pub in Holborn, London (nearest tube Chancery Lane or Blackfriars). Anyway, yours truly is holding the meeting this month with a look at small press anthologies, how anthologies work, what happens when they don’t work, why people do them, etc. 7.30 pm, turn up and see for yourself. Guests aplenty! All right, plug over.

Dateline: 24 October 1998

Wizard on The Run

Okay, settle down, settle down, we’ve got loads to get through. Chary, sit at the front. Come on, come on. Now, let’s get on with it.

You may have read our speculation as to whether Geppi would go for Wizard next. Well, a rumourmonger contacted us to pass on some second hand information that Steve Geppi had been actively pursued by Wizard people to buy them. The word is that Wizard is having some financial difficulty and that subscribtion numbers have fallen dramatically in recent times. However, Geppi just wasn’t interested… or maybe he was saving his money?

The current state of the comics industry will no doubt affect everyone’s finances and Wizard is a high-cost production magazine. Maybe a return to its original format is necessary. Newsprint ahoy!

It’s interesting that all this financial panic is happening in the so-called ‘mainstream’ area of comics, obsessed with superheroes and action-adventure, naked variant covers and toys. On the other hand, companies like Slave Labor and Fantagraphics manage to keep going, if on a shoe string. They may not be making much money, but they aren’t losing it in droves – they couldn’t afford to. While all areas of the industry have lost sales to some degree, it’s the companies that market ‘true Mainstream’ comics that seem to actually survive.

I know where I’d be looking to for the future of the industry.

Another Universe, Another Dollar

After some cogitating over Geppi’s ‘acquisition’ of AnotherUniverse.com, an interesting thought came to mind. Now we know that Geppi and Diamond are not the same thing, but wait a second… would it be in Geppi’s interest for AU to continue their exclusive comics and variants… or to offer them to retailers through Diamond? They could keep the same price but acheive much greater distribution and sales. Worth considering Steve?


Distinguished Careers

It must be great to work for DC… you hardly ever get fired, you just get shunted sideways. As predicted, Paul Kupperberg has been moved, along with Superman editor Joey Calvieri.

But what happens next? DC choose to replace them with younger, less experienced editors from down the ranks, rather than their logical successors. Kind of like your boss being fired, but the guy from the mailroom getting the job instead of you. Or, like the editor of Resurrection Man grabbing the top Superman position.

Now, Ramblings is not doubting the ability of these individuals. We’ve seen how talented people can come from relative obscurity and transform certain titles, such as Matt Idelson at Marvel. But just as with these examples, it’s bound to piss off everyone else around them.

We wish these new promoted individuals good fortune. Just watch your backs.


Counting Your Options

Also at DC, there’s a lot of talk about the survival of Vertigo recently. Comic sales have fallen so much (along with the rest of the mainstream industry) that they are secondary revenue raisers to the sales of film options on titles. It’s long been discussed as a model for a comics company, but here is an actual example of a comic imprint being an R&D division for film studios.

Could the return to old DC concepts such as Sandman Presents and Human Target be a way of ensuring that all the option money comes to the company rather than the lion’s share being tagged by the Garth Ennises and Warren Ellises of this world? Only time will tell.


Paper Cuts

Newsarama’s Mania briefly mentions the huge canning at Marvel with ever more editorial and executive positions gone or on the chopping block. We too have heard these rumours and confirmations but have an actual reason why. Money, and the new Toy Biz management. Initially the sackings by the Toy Biz management were over duplication, where Toy Biz and Marvel overlapped certain positions such as accounts. But then the ball started rolling and before you knew it, so where editorial heads. It had been expected, after devasting Marvel’s top creative output (the canning of End Times, Deadpool on the chopping block, etc.) there wasn’t enough work for the staff. Strangely enough, Marvel usually does this kind of thing around Christmas… couldn’t they have waited a month or two? If only for continuity…


What Will They Call It In 15 Months Time ?

We’ve had a few enquiries about what 2000AD are up to. Oh go on then. First, for the uneducated, 2000 AD is a weekly British sci-fi anthology comic book starring Judge Dredd and a variety of other series. Since the seventies, it has jump kicked the careers of Alan grant, John Wagner, Alan Moore, Alan Davis, Brian Bolland, Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Pete Milligan, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar, Gary Erskine and countless others.

2000 Gay Dee

2000 AD gets its first gay hero when Devlin Waugh transfers from the Judge Dredd Megazine in 1999. John Smith and Steve Yeowell are creating a 26-part mega-epic starring the freelance exorcist with vampiric tendencies. In the first episode Devlin gets outed after being caught in the men’s public toilets sucking someone’s… blood. Eat your heart out, George Michael. Literally.

Back To The Future

Anyone remember Colin Wilson? His last 2000AD work was drawing Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and Future Shocks in 1982. He’s back with two episodes of Pulp Sci-Fi. New Zealand born, he’s spent a decade living and working in Europe on Blueberry, he recently shifted to Australia. His first appearance is in issue 1119, on sale from November 11th, in the US anything up to a month later, Diamond willing.

DreddCam

2000AD also welcoms the return of Star Wars artist Cam Kennedy, drawing Dredd again. He is drawing a 15-page John Wagner story for Judge Dredd Megazine (Volume 3) #50, on sale from January 6th, 1999.

Making His Mark

Artist Mark Harrison, computer star of the upcoming Comics 99 has written and drawn two stories for Pulp Sci-Fi. Harrison got his start writing and drawing The Travellers strip in White Dwarf magazine in the 1980s and he actually inspired the Pulp Sci-Fi series with 2000 AD editor David Bishop.

Ramblings Say…

Well 3000 AD is the obvious one. Or just leaving it at 2000 AD. Or how about David Bishop Rules The Universe? Or how about do a ‘Loaded’ and call it 2000 VD?

Good night all.

Dateline: 21 October 1998

Raining Shoes

You may recall the criticism we received after covering the financial problems of Another Universe and Mania, its online magazine. Well, not to worry, Another Universe’s finiancial position is now very secure… because Steve Geppi, President and CEO of Diamond Comics Distribution, has bought it.

Or, rather, acquired a majority stake. Note, acquired, not purchased. Some might speculate how the finiancial problems that Another Universe had with Diamond were resolved so quickly.

Previously, Another Universe or AnotherUniverse.com was known as Entertainment This Month and American Entertainment. By aggressively targeting the speculator market, AU is blamed by many as the main force fueling the boom and bust pattern of the comics industry over the last few years. With its stores, prominently advertised mail order and heavy internet presence, AU concerns itself almost solely with the best selling quick-buck aspect of the comics industry, and even it’s ‘comprehensive’ list of comics available to order misses out the majority of comics available, almost exclusively the smaller, less prominent self published books (until they get picked up by Image, naturally).

In a press release to the exclusive Retailer section of the Diamond Website, Geppi explains how AU fell into financial trouble, “For a number of years, Steve Milo’s AnotherUniverse.com has been Diamond’s largest customer, and he’s sold a tremendous amount of product on behalf of our suppliers,” Geppi stated. “Steve’s pursued an aggressive Internet growth strategy, and done a good job of building online business, but his plans required outside financing which, unfortunately, didn’t materialize to the level of his needs due to the recent troubles in the capital markets. Without this capital, AnotherUniverse.com was in a position where it could not continue to meet its purchasing obligations to Diamond. In an effort to preserve AnotherUniverse.com’s volume and prevent a sizable set-back to our industry — which is just now showing signs of recovery –I have decided to invest my own personal equity in the company. AnotherUniverse.com will operate independently of Diamond.”

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” Geppi continued, “as I didn’t plan to be involved with selling products to consumers on-line. However, as I became more familar with AnotherUniverse.com, I realized that the site’s primary objective is to create new customers by exposing pop-culture fans to our industry’s most mainstream offerings. I think the site can be a tremendous tool for growing the entire industry, and, to that end, we will strive toget as many Internet shoppers into comic shops as possible by promoting the Comic Shop Locator Service on-line.”

Ramblings would like to point out here that what the comics industry considers mainstream is not what most new customers and pop-culture fans would consider to be mainstream and in fact the smaller books that AU ignores would fit that demographic far more squarely.

Also in the press release, Geppi stated that this agreement with AnotherUniverse.com does not preclude Diamond from serving other Internet retailers, or alter his company’s commitment to its core wholesale distribution business. “AnotherUniverse.com and the Internet are important to the marketplace, but comic book specialty shops account for 99% of our sales, and their needs will always come first.”

Let’s make the Ramblings position clear… we recognise that AU shifts a lot of comics and props up a number of companies that might have fallen by now. It raises the profile of comic books on the internet and amongst media vultures. However, we find it depressing that the books he chooses to promote are almost all superhero or action-adventure with little room for experimentation or improving the form… in afct by only showing the medium in these forms it harms the artform and the industry longterm. And with a reputation of bad consumer service, it can drive potential customers away.

One only has to look at their Top Ten Comics list on a weekly basis. Devoid of experimentation they push mainstream after mainstream, allowing only occasional high-profile indie books that attempt to ape the mainstream as much as possible.

Ramblings believes that promoting the ‘True Mainstream’ is the only solution, a variety of books that would appeal to a wider audience. When ‘Battlechasers’ is considered diverse, the industry can only continue up its own arse into oblivion or a self-serving clique.

And with a DC and Diamond link through Geppi, give it four or five years and the majority of the industry will be owned by one group of people. So… when do you reckon Warner Brothers or Steve Geppi will enquire of Gareb Shamus the asking price of Wizard?

But why not end on a happy note? Steve Geppi, with a controlling stake in AU, you have the chance to make it a force for good. Why not introduce the equivalent of your Small Press Snapshots section or your Certified Cool list? Certainly adding more of the Diamond solicited comics into their upcoming comics lists can only help the prominence of come comics that need the exposure to flourish. If books like Clan Apis, The Factor, Sugar Buzz and Bathroom Girls are exposed to a mainstream audience, that can do nothing but improve the medium’s long-term prospects.

Dateline: 13 October 1998

Twisted Tales from Northampton.

Ramblings ’98 presents a few exclusive excerpts from an upcoming interview with Alan Moore in Tripwire Magazine, available from all good comic book shops (and probably a few bad ones too). All right, commercial plug over. The interview took place on the 6th of October in a pizza restaurant in Northampton.

DC/Wildstorm

First, the DC/Wildstorm deal and the now famous trip by Jim Lee and Scott Dunbier to meet Alan Moore and later a number of other British creators for Wildstorm, including Warren Ellis and Gary Frank.

To be honest, I’d prefer not to be working in a capitalist system but there you go.”

Mike Doran has been telling Jim Lee’s side of the Wildstorm-Meets-Alan-Moore event on Newsarama, and it is much the same from Moore, although he uses slightly more colourful language.

“I was down in Wales minding the chickens during the time that the whole thing blew up. Jim Lee is a gentleman. He came over here, rather than do it over the phone or get an underling to do it… he did have trepidations because I think that they had both been worried about my response. When I got out of the cab at the station and he saw that I had my stick with me, he told me that he half expected me to beat him like a red haired stepchild.”

“My paycheques will come from him, I won’t deal with any DC people and most importantly, I’d already committed not only myself but I’d got other people involved. It was a matter between sticking to my principles and me having to apologise to a load of people whose enthusiasm I’d worked up… I made the stipulation that DC shouldn’t try and make any political capital out of this and Karen Berger phoned up, assured me that they wouldn’t and I trust her.”

“I’ve said before that in a perfect world, I’d like to not be working remotely for DC Comics but this is a far from perfect world. To be honest, I’d prefer not to be working in a capitalist system but there you go.”

Fixing The Industry

“Comics these days are too divided up. There used to be an incredible range of stories, everything from Little Nemo to Bernie Krigstein’s Master Race. It was a rich field. It seems to me that we don’t really have an entry level comics.

“This is a creative matter and it’s something that should be within my power to fix.”

It’s definitely true to say that we don’t have that many adult comics for people over thirty either, apart from some Fantagraphics and Drawn And Quarterly material. I don’t see why, if your ideas are good enough, they should appeal to a nine year old or a fifty year old. This is a creative matter and it’s something that should be within my power to fix. I have a naive belief that if the books in question were any fucking good, we wouldn’t have these other problems… This is an attempt to design, probably a foredoomed attempt, a lovely miniature utopian comic industry. It’s only in the early stages.”

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

In his first new book for Wildstorm, a superhero book in the nineteenth century using Victorian sci-fi, fantasy and adventure literary characters, Moore sees nineteenth century fiction as the point of generation of the superhero genre. Gathering together The Invisible Man, from Wells’ novel of the same name, Haggard’s Allan (King Solomon’s Mines) Quatermain, Stoker’s Mina Harker (from Dracula), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde and Verne’s Captain Nemo means that Moore has plenty to play with.

“I could pick any one of the characters and come up with something brilliant… If you bring them all together, you’ve got a Victorian Justice League of America… When I was writing it, I became obsessive and decided that if there were any walk-on characters, they would all be from somewhere in the fiction of the nineteenth century. We mention Anna Kypo, also known as Nana, the murders in The Rue Morgue and we’ve even got some characters from The Pearl, the pornographic magazine.

“Kevin [O’Neill]’s researched a lot of the abandoned architectural ideas that might have gone through in the London that never was… The Victorian era was incredible, an era of fantasy and dreams. They were dreaming the century to come and the more sensitive amongst them, the artists, the poets, the imagineers, were trying to come up with a vocabulary to describe it and they invented these great machines, fantastic cities and fantastic characters.”

The Plot

“The first six part League story tells of the assembling of the group. An invention has fallen into the wrong hands, a substance called Cavarite, an anti-gravity metal, which comes from Wells’ First Men In The Moon. The League have to retrieve it which they do in #4 but as it’s a six part story, this is only the end of the second act really. Then we see the consequences of their retrieval, which will come to a devastating conclusion in #6… it’ll be like the Blitz, only it’s happening in 1898.”

Time, Gentlemen, Please.

“In the time period of the first series, Sherlock Holmes is dead. A wannabe detective has moved into his address in Baker Street. This young pretender is Sexton Blake, because the first Sexton Blake story was written around 1898 and he lived in Baker Street… We drag in all sorts of things but I’ve tried to keep true to the dates that the story takes place. I’ve written a very complicated chronology. It has to happen in 1898 because a couple of the characters didn’t appear until 1897.”

Captain Nemo

“Until Kevin actually pointed it out, I hadn’t realised that Captain Nemo was Indian. I’d always thought of him as looking like James Mason. He’s an Indian techno-pirate, presumably a Sikh, as they’re the most warlike of the Indian castes. We’ve got a steering wheel which is in the shape of Shiva The Destroyer.”

The Invisible Man

“The great thing about invisible characters in comics is that everybody goes to the trouble of inventing one and then puts a dotted line around them so that you know where they are. That’s stupid… When you can actually use the startling visual and narrative effects that the invisibility makes possible, it’s amazing.”

Dr Jekyll And Mister Hyde

“One plausible case I’ve heard for the book is Stevenson himself might have had tendencies of the Uranian persuasion and he might have been encoding them into Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This could have been one of the reasons why his wife hated the book so much, because she thought that it was possibly too transparent about something that should have remained a private matter between the two of them. Hyde obviously represents sexual appetite, all Id and instant gratification.”

“I love all of the characters. I like Quatermain with his opium habit and his weaknesses. When you see him, he’s got scars all over his body. Wilhemina wears a scarf, which she never takes off, which is a nice erotic touch.”

Characters For Series Two

“The Beetle, who was the subject of a gothic novel published the same year as Dracula, which outsold Stoker’s book and was much creepier and madder but is completely forgotten today. I’ve made a note to use the statue of Rima The Jungle Girl, which actually exists in Hyde Park. She was a fictitious character from a novel called ‘Green Mansions’, which was a kind of Amazon ecological fantasy of the Nineteenth Century and she was such a beloved character that they built a statue of her.”

Days Of Future Past

“After the first two, we’ve talked about the possibility of a proto Eighteenth Century League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or a Roaring Twenties Equivalent.”

Tripwire Special A, containing the full interview with Alan Moore is published in November 1998 and should reach the USA by December.


Paul Levitz On The Scrounge?

Still San Diego stories are leaking around the industry… a nice little story passed it’s way to us last week. Apparently Paul, Executive Vice President and Publisher at DC Comics was trying to use his status to acquire freebie comics from a certain publisher at San Diego… but no go. Forced to pay up like a normal punter, he wandered off in a mood.

Dateline: 09 October 1998

Where In The World Is Mike Mignola?

Mike Mignola has a few interesting projects up his sleeve.

He’s writing a Batman Elseworlds three part 48 page prestige mini-series with artist Richard Pace that incorporates various HP Lovecraft mythologies. Cthulu-Face anyone?

He’s also working with talk-of-the-town Trout creator Troy Nixen on an Oni Press Victorian Detective series.

He hasn’t got much nice to say about Vertigo creator Matt Smith however, as Smith jumped off drawing the next Hellboy mini-series and Mignola hasn’t been able to contact him since. Looks like Mignola will have to draw it himself… which personally I’m very much in favour of. Because, dammit, no-one can draw Hellboy better than his creator.

Moore Snippet Of The Day:

Alan Moore’s biggest reason for staying with Wildstorm, apparently, was loyalty. He’d signed up to do a series of books, recruited artists, got them excited, put them on the schedules and if he was to back out, the repurcussions would harm his fellow contributors.

While he is diametrically opposed to working for DC, he felt that his principles weren’t worth the harm they might cause others – a lesson he may have learnt recently after letting Marvel reprint the Moore/Davis Captain Britain stories.

Dateline: 07 October 1998

Northampton Knowledge

We’ll have some decent Alan Moore excerpts from the Tripwire interview shortly. Until then, here’s a few headliners to keep you glowing.

Firewall is the name of the separate-from-DC imprint that will publish Alan Moore’s League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the America’s Best Comics line. It will also house other Jim Lee projects that are separate from DC.

Eddie Campbell will be illustrating the comic book version of Birth Caul: A Shamanism Of Childhood CD by Alan Moore (available through this website! ). Another CD is in the process of being made, set in and around Highbury.

Moore’s decision to stay with Lee was based on what he saw as harming other creators who he already recruited to the line. He’s still not very happy, but he’s decided that people’s paypackets are more important than his personal principles.

More soon…

Dateline: 01 October 1998

Image Falls

That’s right! After the loss of Rob Liefeld, the fall of the Valentino non-line, the departure of Wildstorm, can the destruction of Image be far away when….

Channel Zero leaves Image!

After issue 6, Channel Zero will make its own way in the wild wild world without having to pay thousands of dollars for the Image ‘i’ each issue. A number of companies have already expressed interest in picking the book up, but creator Brian Wood hasn’t signed up yet.

Channel Zero looks and feels like an Oni book to me, anyway.

Wizard’s Familiar…

Wizard has got Deadpool 0 with it! What a wonderful reason to buy Wizard! And if you like it, why not buy the company? We hear from an inside source that Wizard: Guide To Comics is up for sale. Now whether this means the entire company or just that title, we don’t know. But if anyone does, please tell us…

Perhaps Gareb Shamus is going to join Jim Lee on the beach!

Okay, an extra-extra rumour warning for the below article. We will be anonymously quoting from comic book creators. They may tell the truth, they may be embittered hacks swiping out at everyone they get narked with and they may be downright lying. Nevertheless, we report their venom filled spewing and remind you that this is, primarily a RUMOUR column. Right, on with the hurting.

DC Distress

There’s too much bad mouthing in the industry these days. So why should Ramblings keep out of it?. After considerable prompting, a Ramblings source heard one creator mouth off about editor Paul Kupperberg.We’ve already heard about some Aztek errors and the classic ‘wrong Flash breaking his legs’ incident but this DC creator alleged that Paul is only in work because he’s Paul Levitz’ childhood pal. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this at all, I’ve managed to get work for my friends wherever possible and have been on the receiving end a number of times.

The reason people are hired can often be odd… Scott Lobdell seems to have got his X-Men work by impressing Bob Harrass with his stand up routine, Peter David through a magazine interview with his future employer and the drunken ramblings in bars at the GlasCAC’s seemed to be a virtual job agency.

Anyway, this creator went on to say that Paul is about to be ‘set aside’ with a “director of special projects” title so he doesn’t do any more damage.

Every editor has the occasional slip up (see current Wolverine Kike Variant issue, and do you remember a ‘felching heck’ from years gone by?) and Paul Kupperberg has been involved with a number of outstanding projects and his editorial skills have played a great part in a number of them… and Grant Morrison is seeing more and more DC work as a result. Hell, anyone who can get mainstream stuff out of that fella is a genius. And ‘special projects’ sounds like the kind of place a man can really make his mark. So here’s to you Paul! Just… don’t be tempted to write Doom Patrol again.

Another DC creator was also heard to be mouthing off about the cancellation of Sandman Mystery Theatre. Although the plan was for a four issue slot to finish the book, the fact that this didn’t happen was seen as completely political act; that (the aforementioned) Paul Levitz told Karen Berger that Vertigo was losing too much money, and that they could EITHER run SMT to #75 OR publish the oversized hardcover of Stardust.

And, despite what we heard about significant Stardust overprintings and shops unable to sell the book (I’ve seen London shops backstocks that remind me of the Deathmate debacle), maybe a good relationship with Neil Gaiman is better for Karen and Vertigo.

Political act or economic act, you decide!

About Rich Johnston

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

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