The House Of Pain

Read Jason Liebig’s farewell speech on X-Fan? Good… however rumours bouncing back and forth across the industry surrounding the parting of ways don’t paint it to be quite as cheery as the piece suggests. Surprised? Surely not…

This is how the rumours go:

A number of pros really don’t like Jason and have been briefing against him. Certainly this very column has printed rumours that Liebig was for the chop ever since Quesada became EiC, but that after internal pressure, his period was extended.

People seemed to either love or loathe Jason, and now that Harras and Claremont have gone from editorial, there is more of a loathe camp. Obviously not Mark Powers, but then his support for Liebig at the end of the X-Fan piece seemed less of a note of support and more like one of suicide. Quesada is also one of the anti-Liebig camp.

There are also several rumours that Joe Quesada has big problems with Warren Ellis. Dropping the Counter X books is a move against his influence on Marvel continuity and stuff.

Collecting them together, I solicited response from a number of involved sources. Some work for Marvel, some don’t. Some went on the record, some didn’t. First, the nameless one. Remember, people who don’t put their name to a piece don’t have to bear responsibility for the effect. As a result they they can say truths freely… but also a pack of lies if they so wish. Bear that in mind when reading.

“Quesada is very anti-Ellis.”

“Quesada didn’t like the perceived snub of Warren turning down Marvel Knights work, but then accepting Jason’s Counter-X revamp. It seems hard to imagine that this could color Joe’s judgement so heavily once he became the don of dons, but Warren warned the Counter-X teams to start looking for work because Joe hates his guts.”

“Joe asked some creators on books that Jason was editing to give him feedback on Jason’s performance. About a week or two before Jason was dismissed, his assistant Lysa Hawkins was promoted to associate editor.”

“Jason had done a lot of stupid things in the past. I know he spoke behind Quesada’s back on more than one occasion and fought him on another.”

“Jason believed Joe was humiliating him through his freelancers.”

“It seems unlikely that the cancellation of these books is a move against Ellis. Ellis submitted plots, took the money, and ran. He had very little invested in the project and most of his plots were so badly broken they needed extensive rewrites which were done by the Counter-X writers because Ellis wasn’t returning editorial’s calls. This was all VERY unlike him… I heard he was ill… he certainly was finding the workload difficult.”

“Jason is just the same as Joe and any editor in this respect, those that do well out of them love him. Those he fucks up hate him. Though I do know that the Mark Waid thing really upset Jason…he felt Waid was trying to establish a “hard man” image, like Warren.”

“Counter-X sales were up. Warren has brought a distinction to the line and given a number of low-awareness writers and artists and spotlight in which they flourished. And Marvel want to mess with that formula? It all down to personal politics.”

“Joe Quesada just wants to be loved… really… he won’t give you the bad news you need to know. He won’t tell you his real opinion, he has become very much a politician. The trouble is he has to hang out with Bill Jemas… it kills him that he has to ally himself with someone who considers the comics strictly “product”. That’s a lot of frustration looking for a target…”

“Jason’s a loud mouth. He doesn’t hold back. He believed editorial meetings were a forum for discussion and complaint, but Joe wanted to use them like political rallies… a show of unity and leadership for Jemas’ benefit. Heckles flew, hackles rose, lots of “nobody talks to me like that” and there ya go.”

Warren Ellis did not respond to any enquiry.

Steven Grant, X-Man writer was willing to go on the record, saying “I don’t think there was any great conspiracy or backdrop to Jason’s firing. I know the perception of the Counter-X books in the new regime is that they’re hard to follow – that’s no big secret – and some of that was blamed on Jason’s editing. I don’t think being perceived as a “Harrasite” was a help to him; Jason seemed to know his days were numbered, even if he hoped otherwise, from the moment Bob was bounced… I hesitate to ascribe ulterior motives to what may have been nothing more than a simple business decision. For whatever reason, Joe and Bill decided Marvel was better off without Jason’s services; I’m not convinced it’s any juicier a story than that.“

As to bad feeling from some comics pros, Steven said “Jason was always such an easygoing guy with me it’s hard to understand what engendered that response.”

And while Steven wouldn’t comment when pressed (darn it, why do some professionals have to be… well… professional?), I understand from other Marvel sources that X-Man is one of the definitely cancelled X-titles and a final issue has been decided upon, #75. More on that in a moment.

Then the big bossman himself, Joe Quesada, also went on the record with a statement.

“Jason’s no longer being with Marvel really isn’t anybody’s business but his and Marvel’s. To discuss it in an open forum is just tacky and serves no one in the end. I wish Jason the best, he’s a bright energetic guy with a promising future ahead of him.”

“As for the X books being canceled as a move against Warren’s influence on Marvel continuity, well all I can say is that I had a bet here at the office as to how long it would take you to ask me that question, Rich.”

“I lost by a week.”

“The cancellations that will be announced have no more to do with Warren than they do with the individual creators on the books. This isn’t a personal thing, how can you run a business properly that way? We’re looking for diversification of the mutant mythos from book to book, some books repeat the message, some books will have to go. Warren is a respected creator and it’s really quite small minded of anyone to think that this is something personally directed towards him. This is the comics industry not an episode of the X-Files.”

Sorry you lost your bet, Joe. However, some of the behind-the-scenes stories we’ve been privileged to take a peek at show that the comics industry is full of decisions made as a result of personal politics ? even recently, Mark Waid reports he was told he’ll never write Superman and Jim Shooter reports that his Last Legion Of Superheroes Story being shot down for purely personal reasons. Whether that’s the same in this case or not is immaterial, the comics business has on a number of occasions been run with ‘personal things’ through its history.

But either way, in case some of the Marvel employees I’ve heard these stories from are reading this column, you heard what your boss said.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


ATR UPDATE: Steven Grant Speaks Out

As we were going to print, Steven Grant wanted to make additional response to some of the statements we received. He writes:

“Warren and I are friends, and we speak frequently. At no point that I recall did Warren warn me about anything involving Joe. It may just be ego, but I like to believe that had Warren been in a warning mood I’d have been high on his list of people to warn.”

“I’ve known Joe nearly a decade now and have spoken with him several times since he became e-i-c, and at no time did he ask me to evaluate Jason’s performance as an editor.”

“At least on X-MAN – I don’t know enough of how the other titles worked to speak for them – Warren’s “plots” were intentionally sketchy (he was more elaborate in some places than others, particularly on the first arc) and always intended to be extensively embellished and modified by me. That was part of the arrangement. It was always my understanding that the Counter-X writers weren’t there to simply be Warren’s puppets and Warren never wanted us to be. Warren may have quarterbacked the line, at least at the beginning (by the third X-Man arc, I was on my own), but we were always expected to run with the ball and had considerable, almost total, leeway.”


Unlimited Confusion

After Joe Pruett announced his resignation from X-Men Unlimited on X-Fan, there was more to come. In his Delphi forum, Brett Booth wrote “Unlimited is supposed to be out this week, but we’ll see. I won’t be doing the next issue of Unlimited, Marvel has made some comments to me about the art and apparently I won’t be doing the covers anymore, they’ll be getting a ‘name’ artist. I haven’t decided weather to leave or not yet. They still have a inventory issue I did awhile ago tho.” And followed it with “29 Is most likely the last issue. I know I won’t be doing 30, I have yet to decide to leave or stay.” With the creative team gone, can the book be far behind?

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


X-Maniacs

Let’s go back to one of those earlier stories though. With announcements of cancelled X-books promised, rumours about which will go and which will stay were bound to flourish. After the Comics Continuum (www.comicscontinuum.com) printed that Generation X will be cancelled at issue 75, it looks like we might as well call April “Lumberjack Month”. The axes are swinging. Not a bad thing, there’s a lot of dead wood out there. But the sad truth is that some of the creaking rotting oaks are being ignored and a number of young saplings are being pulled up. Creatively bankrupt books like Wolverine stay where they are. As Hidden Years is cancelled, Gambit and Bishop stop after their joint mini-series and X-Men Unlimited splutters to an end, it has been confirmed to me by a couple of Marvel sources in the know that X-Man will end at issue 75 too – in the same month. This is madness.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of the Counter-X books, but even I could see that X-Man was the standout. It’s doing something entirely different with the X-mythos and creating the kind of solo character we haven’t seen before. It’s doing something new with mutant superhero comics and in a world-changing way that got everyone excited about Authority and Planetary. In fact this is the only book I can see breaking out in a similar way. The main character is a very powerful shaman of the world and sees it as his duty to tackle that which destroys it. It takes Professor Xavier’s ‘dream’ to a new level, building on it and expanding. Basically an aloof version of Superman that has chosen to distance himself from the people of the world so as to better serve them.

Quesada and Jemas have stated that they are trimming the Xbooks to that each book has a distinct voice and doesn’t simply replicate what another book is doing. X-Man is the most distinct of the books. Along with Black Panther and Deadpool, it’s one of the few Marvel books actually doing something different with the concept of superheroes. Unlike the other two it actually sells.

Now, X-Man has been given an end date. But it’s not officially announced yet, so it’s a lot easier for Marvel to backtrack if they wish to. If you, like me, think there’s a big future for X-Man, e-mail [email protected] now. If you don’t you’ll only have yourself to blame when Marvel cancel one of their very few experimental titles ? and one that makes money at the same time too. We did it with Deadpool and Black Panther, they’re both still around, let’s do it again.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out Of 10


Mouth Piece

There were some interesting discussions at the recent DreddCon in London. One source, let’s call him Mighty Mouth reported that “John Mcrea (Hitman, Jenny Sparks) is saying that John Layman (Wildstorm editor) spread the rumour that Azarello and Dillon are taking over to generate hype, but contracts are still not signed. And someone pointed out the timing of Mark’s move to the States and his wording does lend to the supposition he’s being brought in to run the new Marvel line.” Hardly new rumour that last one, Newsarama’s been all over it like a bad rash. But maybe it’s also a place where Millar and Ross can get their Saviour project greenlit… the one that Vertigo turned down?

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Slapped Shit

Are you a fan of the Paul Newman film, Slap Shot? Come on, some of you must be. Todd McFarlane probably is, he made a series of figures based on the ice-hockey bruisers of the film, the Hanson Brothers.

However, it’s not all jolly hockey sticks, as the Hanson brothers themselves aren’t best pleased. They write on their web-site:

Autograph Notice: Bad News, Jeff, Steve and Dave AKA the Hanson Brothers are NOT being paid any royalties for the McFarlane figures. In other words they didn’t see one penny from the action figure release. Because of this, they will not under any circumstances sign those action figures. Please do not ask them to sign your action figures as they will refuse. They are very upset about this. Therefore, if you see any for sale that are autographed, until further notice you can assume that they are fake. Thank you for your understanding.

On the McFarlane Message Boards, staff member Dion posted “As someone correctly stated earlier, McFarlane Toys licensing department purchasing the rights to the Hanson characters directly from the movie studio that owns them. “

“The actors signed away the rights to their character likenesses in their contract when the film was made.”

“Whether you find this good or bad depends on your perception, but it is how business is done. The suggestion, however obliquely, has been made that McF Toys somehow screwed these guys out of their royalties, which is absolutely not true. McF Toys paid good money for the character likenesses from the entity that owns those rights.”

“If you choose to not buy the product based on that, well, that’s your right. Either way, you should respect the Hansons’ wishes not to sign them.”

And with the latest issue of Spawn killing off Angela, that’s another pesky royalty/rights issue they don’t have to deal with anymore…

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out Of 10


Mac To Basics

Also on the Spawn front, it was widely reported that Steve Niles would take over from Brian Bendis on the Hellspawn title after Bendis stepped down, it was also assumed by some he might write the Sam And Twitch series that Bendis was fired from too. Not to be, in fact Todd McFarlane will be stepping in to write this much-acclaimed book.

Personally, I’d give the book to Lance Gueck, but that would open up a whole can of worms again…

This Has A Rumour Value Of 9 Out Of 10


World Wide Rob

One source tells me “Please don’t reveal me as the source of this info as it could jeopardize some deals I’m making, but I have it on pretty good authority that Rob Liefeld’s “alternative” to Diamond is the internet.”

“He’s planning a big re-launch of his website with online comics.”

Something Scott McCloud will no doubt get rather interested in… certainly Liefeld still has the ability to make the industry sit up and take notice… but then his last website was registered by another party after Awesome didn’t re-register the domain name.

E-mails to Rob Liefeld were not answered.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 5 Out Of 10


Closet Hero

I was recently passed a message concerning the recent-ish Titans Secret Files, which as well as showing new stories, has editorial material and text pages about the characters, often reprinting scenes from their comics history. Apparently, the character Hero, a rare DC Universe gay character has one scene severely chopped. In the original comic, there us a scene where Hero and his boyfriend are standing behind a door in an intimate scene. The door is opened and they are interrupted.

In the Secret Files version, the scene with the door is shown but Hero and his boyfriend have been removed from the panel.

This cutting occurred after the Jenny Sparks Issue 2 scene. Looks like DC are still very unsure about portraying even meagre scenes of affection between two characters in a gay relationship. Hopefully the success of something like The Authority will change things here.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 5 Out Of 10


Spider Sense

Another source gives me the word on another behind-the-scenes story… “Amazing Spider-Man #25, it came out last week, and, for a Howard Mackie comic, was a very, very good read.” A quick check of the reviews… “The reason? The (uncredited) plot was by Paul Jenkins. After pencilling, Mackie did his usual hack job on the dialogue. After the issue was lettered and inked, it went to Jenkins and Mark Buckingham for their comments, and to help them lead into the second part of the story in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #25.”

“But it had deviated so far away from Jenkins original intentions that he took it upon himself to re-script the entire issue – uncredited, of course. And that’s the story behind the best story Howard Mackie never wrote.”

Okay, a little bit bitchy that one but hey. This is a gossip and rumour column, damn it!

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Mighty Marching Orders

Jason’s not the only one to receive his marching papers at Marvel recently… the rumour is that also gone is Bullpen staffer for 10 years, and submissions editor, Darren Auks. Nothing personal here, in fact I hear people, including Joe really like him. But at the moment, Marvel aren’t looking to new submissions for their talent pool and will rely on their other editor’s to do Darren’s job. And with finances biting everywhere, he’s one position they could lose without dropping books.

I also reciveved this rumour, “Ralph Macchio’s assistant got booted as well… also to close to Bob Harass’ sphere of influence. Mind you, he was also seen publically [sic] speaking up against Bill Jemas…”

So who are the remaining people in Marvel editorial with key ties to Bob Harras? Ralph Macchio, now sidelined from the Spidey books by Axel Alonzo. Mark Powers, nicely entrenched in the X-books and going along with his new bosses plans – but was that note of support on X-Fan really wise? And Bobbie Chase- but word is she’s pretty safe – she gave Quesada his writing gig on Iron Man, remember…

This Has A Rumour Value Of 5 Out Of 10


Sale Now On…

Look for a new murder mystery series from Greg Rucka and Tim Sale soon… Sale’s a busy boy, he’s also working up a new series for DC that alternates Batman and Superman as the star of each issue.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Selling Now On…

Yes, it’s that time again when I tell you I’m selling more of my back issues. Loads of the buggers. *Turn on American Marketing Switch*, snuggle up to some cosy comics reading over the holidays, why don’t you? Click here to see the wide selection on display…

This Has An Annoyance Factor Of 10 Out Of 10

 

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