First, a request.

I love it when people reproduce bits from this column and distribute in relevant sections across the interweb, especially if they add a link back here. But could those individuals also reproduce the Rumour Barrier copy above the piece they extract? I’d appreciate it.

“I accept that the following material is rumour and gossip, intended to entertain only.

“I won’t repeat the information inside as fact. I understand if I want the truth, I will go to Silver Bulletins.

“I enter freely with my mind open and my blinkers off.”

Now, onto the rumours…

Fabry Of Space And Time

Authority fans will be pleased to know that, yes, The Garth Ennis Authority issues are still on, but in a different format. Basically the story will be changed into a prestige format special and be released during 2002. The continuing series ends with Millar – and that’s it.

Ah, but who to draw the Ennis story? The word is… Glenn Fabry, doing the pen and ink style that made him famous. For those who only know Glenn’s painted covers, you’re in for a treat here.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10

Tale Of Two Stories

Last week’s column had a link between two stories pointed out to me. First the Ted Turner accusations about the handling of Superman and Batman by DC. Could the increased publicity for Superman (the new TV series) and Batman (the high profile Dark Knight strikes back) be just what DC need to show AOL Time Warner that they are handling Superman and Batman well? While keeping everything else they do including major works of art such as the Will Eisner Library hidden from the real world?

Either way, I’ve been told that the cancellation of the Authority has nothing to do with the ultra-violence of the book – and that the events of September 11th were a perfect excuse for DC to pull the book permanently. The problem is down to Apollo and Midnighter being a gay couple version of Superman and Batman. That is what is so unacceptable to the bigwigs at DC, that is what they don’t want the higher-ups to know about for fear of losing control over the actual Batman and Superman properties – and the relationship between Apollo and Midnighter are the changes that have been requested by DC Comics of Art Adams to his original work, delaying the book further.

This wouldn’t be the first time – DC famously removed a kissing scene between the two from the Jenny Sparks mini-series, refused to restore it for the trade paperback and were reportedly not best pleased at the publicity the book got when Millar took over the title.

DC have a number of prominent homosexual and bisexual employees and accusations of homophobia are hard to make stick. Their bosses at AOL Time Warner are a different matter.

And how does a company like DC go from confirming that they’re not doing a Smallville comic to one comics news source on one weekend, to confirming that they are doing one to another source on the following Tuesday? Considering DC’s usual track record at considering titles before publishing them, are we to believe that the decision was reserved so quickly?

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10

Rob’s New Tricks

Have some sneak peeks at a project called the Assembled by Rob Liefeld. Will this be the new internet project he’s been tantalising us with for a year now?

Click For Larger Images

The first five pages are pulled from sequences spotlighting Youngblood from a project called The Assembled, pencilled by Liefeld and coloured by Matt Yackey. The following six images are pulled from various sequences from Youngblood: Genesis, written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Eric and Chad Walker and inked by Liefeld.

Entertaining stuff alright, though watch those elbow angles, Rob, you could have someone’s eye out with that!

This Has A Mad Angle Value Of 7 Out Of 10

Death Locked

I have heard every Marvel MAX title announced as a creative team well and truly attached, except Deathlok. Why?

I also hear that the black Captain America series that Frank Miller was to have done the covers for is dead. And although the reasons behind it are meant to be juicy – no one’s telling me a thing.

This Has A Querious Value Of 7 Out Of 10

Off To The Bank?

One of those wackier rumours… I hear from one source or a source that as part of AOL’s restructuring, DC Comics is moving from its current New York offices to Burbank with the rest of the Warner Studio.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 Out Of 10

Joe Would Like A Word – Or A Few Hundred

Ah, Joe Quesada. Alongside the likes of Gary Groth, Dave Sim, John Byrne, Warren Ellis and Bill Jemas, he can always be relied on to say the kind of stuff that gets everyone else in a tizzy.

And here’s a lovely extract from X-Fan to illustrate the point…

    “Every once in a while, when I had my board on Event Comics or at Marvel I would take the time to write a small editorial piece to either address certain pertinent issues, get stuff off my mind or just to start some crazy conversation on the net. Sometimes it was to accomplish all three! Since is just a bit of a ways from being launched, and since I’ve gotten a full days sleep thanks to whatever that funky chemical is in turkey meat, I found myself with enough energy to either start a new imprint at Marvel or better yet just vent on this site!

“First, let me congratulate everyone involved with DK2. From Frank Miller to Lynn Varley to Bob Shreck and his staff. It looks like the first issue is going to break all sorts of sales records and I can’t tell you how happy I am to see it! In the immortal words of Dr. Frankenstein (or was it Gene Wilder?), ‘It’s ALIVE!’ The comicbook industry is ALIVE!!! The industry has been showing positive signs of consistent growth and DK2 was a nice way to really cap off one of the most fascinating and positive years in comics. Well, done folks!

“On to other things. I recently read an interview with Mark Alessi from CrossGen in which he stated that I broke a verbal agreement with him with respect to announcing Mark Waid’s joining us at Marvel to write the Fantastic Four. Alessi said that he and I agreed that Waid would be free to come work at Marvel as of February 2 as long as Marvel said nothing about it until that date. Well, that’s basically true. You see according to CG’s THREE MONTH NON COMPETE clause in their employees contracts, Waid would be FORBIDDEN to write a SINGLE WORD for ANY other publisher until April 2, that’s THREE MONTHS after his contract runs out, that’s THREE MONTHS of comicbook UNEMPLOYMENT! I happen to have big problems with this THREE MONTH NON COMPETE but more on that later. Later, Alessi and I negotiated a deal by which CG would cut down Mark’s NON COMPETE from THREE MONTHS to ONE, hence the February date. My part of the agreement was that if I could get Waid as of February 2, I would say nothing about him writing FF until then. I also agreed that I would mention Ruse as often as possible in order to help CG promote the book. I had no problem doing this because I happen to think that there are some incredibly talented and wonderful artist and writers working at CG.

“No problem, no sweat.

“Then a few days later I receive legal paperwork from CG asking me to sign that I gave my word, pretty ridiculous and more importantly, insulting.

“A few days after that, I receive a phone call from Waid telling me not to sign the paperwork, that his THREE MONTH NON COMPETE was now back in effect, so I could go out in good conscience and announce his joining the Fantastic Four team whenever I chose, but of course he would not be able to write a word for the book until April. Now, I’m not calling Mark Alessi a liar here, but I do believe somewhere down the line there were some signals crossed. The same day that I spoke to Waid, my pal Ian Feller, who works at CG, called up and asked if I could sign the contract and mail it back ASAP. I told Ian that I would never have signed it in the first place but that it was a moot point since Waid called me to say that he could not work for me until April. I instructed him to tell Alessi that this was the case and that I would be talking about Fantastic Four and Waid in public eventually.

“So in my mind it was very simple, I told Alessi February 2, but Waid informed me that the deal was off. So at Waid’s behest I went out and confirmed what was already a wild spreading rumor, that Waid and Weringo were the new team on Fantastic Four!

“Did I mention that Waid and Weringo are the new team on Fantastic Four?

“So, now much to my surprise I read that I’ve somehow broken my word with Alessi and all I can think of is perhaps he didn’t get my message? I’ve built my relationships in comics by being a person of my word, I’ve always been straight forward with folks and let the chips fall where they may, so this accusation just seems a bit out of the blue.

“I sent Waid this editorial before making it public because I wanted to make sure none of this would put him in a more awkward situation than he was already in. He said it was okay and also provided the following quote, ‘As someone who was at ground zero and watched this whole situation unfold, believe me when I say that no one, least of all Joe, has any reason to apologize for his statements or his actions. Only the truly paranoid attribute to malice what can be chalked up to miscommunication–and that’s what this was.’

“At Marvel we have exclusive contracts, they have them at DC, they have them at almost every publisher. As long as I’ve worked in comics, I’ve always heard it said by those in charge that if someone wanted out of their exclusive contracts, that they were free to go at any time. Of course it wasn’t perceived as the most honorable thing to do, but if they wanted to go, go. This is exactly how I feel as well now that I head Marvel. Why would I stop someone? Why would I want someone working for me who didn’t want to be there? Heck, I’ve seen this happen with my very eyes, a talent wanting out of their exclusivity and a publisher just letting them go. So as someone who has come head to head twice so far with CG’s NON COMPETE, what is it that troubles me? Well, aside from the fact that I think it’s unenforceable as soon as someone decides to contests it, I tried reading Alessi’s explanation for it in his interview. He states how it has something to do with Diamond’s 3 month solicitation window and guess what? I can’t make heads or tails of it! Now, because I’m an idiot, I ran it by several smarter people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it either! So here it is, the non compete in my opinion is there for only one reason…

“… to make a talent think twice before leaving.

“Think about it, you resign or let your contract run and out and then you can’t do a stitch of comic work for three months. God forbid if you need the dough! You’ll have to find work flippin’ burgers or better yet, staying at CG. Not only that, it hurts a talents cache to be out of the limelight for a significant amount of time. Now to add fuel to my feelings about this there is this wonderful quote…

“‘Are you aware that, unlike most other similar organizations, we do not hold employees to any pre-set contract timeframe? If they are unhappy, they can leave with the ‘courtesy’ standard of two weeks notice like any other job. No one, two, three-year or more exclusives here. You stay at Crossgen only if you want to.’

“That was Mark Alessi talking about the benefits of working at CG in a CG Wizard Special Edition. Maybe this is the point at which we should discuss keeping ones word? Perhaps a remark like that from the owner of CG makes it legally difficult for his THREE MONTH NON COMPETE to be enforceable, I don’t know, you decide. I’m sure this remark has its own legal implications, which I’m sure Alessi’s legal people at CG could educate him on. Either way, I’m sure this will incite Mr. Alessi to brow beat his staff into writing me a Borg-like letter or perhaps challenge me to some sort of ludicrous debate. However, I see this stuff for what it is, a man (not his employees) who can’t stand to hear the slightest negative reaction to his practices and theories. So much so that he has to go to any lengths to squelch any negative press, real or imaginary, even a creator’s simple departure.

“So why do I bring this up for discussion? Probably to warn up and coming talent, that no matter who tells you, whether it be CG or another publisher, that things like these in contracts are the norm…

“… they’re not!

“They may be the norm in the technologies field where there are important trade secrets that a three month window may very well be important for, but it DOESN’T APPLY to comic creators!

“Okay, now that that’s all said and done, here’s the latest report on HEROES. As of yesterday it seems that we completely sold out of our second print run. We’re looking into back orders to see if the number is significant enough to make a third printing worth doing. Fox News ran a wonderful piece today (Thanksgiving Day) on HEROES and it had some great segments with John Cassaday, Neal Adams and myself. I want to thank everyone who supported this project by purchasing it at their local shop. Keep your eyes open for Moment of Silence, it’s really going to be another special book. Speaking of special books, I’ve been checking out some of the stuff from all the other tribute books on tap and it’s truly inspiring stuff. Please make it a point to support these magnificent books as well, there are a lot of wonderful writers, artist, editors and publishers putting their heart and soul into these projects!

“I’ve been getting tons of e-mail’s concerning the art of HEROES and although the news is still vague it looks like the artwork is going to be auctioned off sometime in January. The live auction which is scheduled to take place at a very exclusive and prestigious club in NYC will have 20 or so choice pieces, the rest of the book will most likely be auctioned off simultaneously on Ebay, or so is the plan. More details as we learn ’em!”

Bless him, eh, readers? And more contract fun to follow…

This Has A Bombs-Start-Falling Value Of 6 Out Of 10

Fur-ensic Study

First, here’s a visual from the upcoming Tigra series by Christina Z and Mike Deodato.

This Has A Strokable Value Of 7 Out Of 10

Team Up Rumour Stomped On!

There’s been a rumour running around that Ultimate Marvel Team Up, the comic featuring the Ultimate version of Spider-Man meeting with his peers in the Ultimate Marvel continuity, written by Brian Bendis and drawn by a gallery of the industry’s top artists is to be cancelled at eitehr issue #12 or #13, because of poor performance compared to other Ultimate titles. Indeed it was rumoured that Ultimate Fantastic Four might take its place.

But Brian Bendis tells me, “Hey, someone is yanking you on this one, terry moore is drawing forteen, rick mays is drawing 15 -16, and 17 is a big surprise for spidey movie month which i writing now. also, look at the charts, its not doing usm numbers, but its not a bomb. its a healthy spidey book and the trade did great… and looks great btw.”

While Joe Quesada said, “Not true. To say the book is underperforming is completely wrong. I can’t get too much into detail here because I promised Bendis that I wouldn’t say a word. Marvel does not perceive Team-Up as an underachiever.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 2 Out Of 10

Contract Or Con Trap?

Earlier this week, Marvel creators received the following letter:

    “Dear Creator:

“We have important news regarding your future payments from Marvel, so please read this letter carefully!

“Various departments here at Marvel have joined forces to streamline and automate the freelancer payment system. In the near future the manual voucher system will be replaced with a new “e-voucher” system that should result in a more efficient payment process for our freelancers. Once the new system is up and running, freelancers will no longer be required to submit vouchers for payment. After your work has been delivered, an e-voucher for your work will be initiated by your editor. All payments due will be processed by the system and checks will be automatically produced for all work delivered according to the attached Pay Date Schedule.

“In order to make the transition from written vouchers to the electronic system, we have prepared a standard work for hire agreement that will serve to replace the language that is included on the present voucher forms. This document also sets forth in writing many of Marvel’s standard policies that up to now have not been part of any written agreement between Marvel and its freelance artists and writers.

“Please find enclosed a Work For Hire Agreement for your signature. By signing the Agreement you are confirming Marvel’s ownership of and usage rights of the material you are creating for Marvel. A copy of Marvel’s Incentive Plan is included as an attachment to the Agreement. Please note that the Incentive Plan has just recently been revised. Effective with product shipping on or after November 1, 2001, the Trade Paperback Incentive rate will increase from two percent (2%) up to four percent (4%).

“We hope to begin using the automatic voucher system soon, so we ask that you sign and return the Work for Hire Agreement to my attention by Friday, November 30th via standard, first class U.S. mail service. Please contact me right away if you have any questions or comments about the new payment system or the Agreement.

“My email address is XXX and my phone number is XXXX.

“Sincerely yours,

Holly Reandeau
Manager Publishing Relations”

Attached was a contract, rather watertight and all-encompassing. Paragraphs included the likes of: “TALENT agrees and acknowledges that his/her services hereunder and the results and proceeds thereof, including without limitation any writings, artwork, specifications, discoveries, improvements, modifications, ideas , source codes, templates etc. (hereinafter collectively the “Materials”) already produced for MARVEL or to be produced by TALENT hereunder shall be owned exclusively and in perpetuity by MARVEL. TALENT irrevocably assigns to MARVEL all of TALENT’s rights, title and interest, including all rights under copyright, trademark and patent law, worldwide, in and to the Materials.”

This would be very handy if signed by a creator who has done creator-owned work in the past for Marvel, or who may be seeking a legal suit for the ownership of characters created by Marvel in the past, when their legalese was less watertight. The likes of Harris Miller, well known lawyer and agent representing a number of comic book creators in the industry has been advising creators to think twice about the implications of signing such a contract.

One source was quoted as saying, “They are using the opportunity, under the guise of instituting a new, no-paper e-voucher system, to force all freelancers to sign a new, even more egregiously one-sided agreement that basically strips creators of all rights, including retroactively, to all work they have ever done, or will do, for Marvel.”

Joe Quesada told me, “What has happened is that we’re going to a more efficient electronic vouching system. So, to do that we had to hand out freelancer release forms that basically say the same thing that was on the back of our paper vouchers, you know stuff about Marvel owning the copyright and so forth. As with blanket legal documents like this, one size does not fit all. We knew that there would be problems going in so we figured we would address them as they came up and write amendments as needed. For example, some of the wording could have been interpreted in a way that if someone had done creator owned for us, those rights could have been pushed into question if Marvel were truly this evil empire that we’ve been rumored to be. The people who drew up the contract weren’t thinking that way, but it’s no problem, it was brought to our attention and amendments will be sent out. There were 3 or 4 problems like these that are all being addressed.”

However, this contract-on-the-hoof has caused considerable amount of nervousness and bad feeling among the ranks. Especially when compared to other company contracts, such as DC’s which gives payment for foreign reprinting or work and exploitation in the toy market for example. It has also been alleged that one of the reasons Marvel is purring out so many trade paperbacks of work so soon after the original serialisation has been finished, is that if they reprint within a year or original publication, no extra payment is given to the creators. Under Harras’ reign, this would never have been a problem as TPBs were rare and much delayed. But with the new regime’s fondness for publishing TPBs days after the last issue is printed, a number of creators may suffer. Increased incentive aside, while certain individuals have arranged contracts that reflect this pattern, gaining higher up front payments, not every creator will be so lucky.

And while Marvel has been seen by many, including this column, as highly successful in attracting the likes of Garth Ennis, John McCrea, Brian Azzarello and so on, the word is that many of these creators see Marvel as a place to do small pieces of highly lucrative work, while relying on DC and it’s more creator friendly contracts for their ongoing careers. And while some like having the freedom denied them at DC to play in the company-owned toy box for a short time, it’s not where they see their long term future.

Indeed, it’s rumoured that Garth Ennis’s new project, an ongoing-but-eventually-limited monthly series was not published through Marvel because of their restrictive payment scheme, but is going to Vertigo because of reprint, foreign trade and multi-media exploitation rights offered by DC.

Thanks to Alan David Doane of Comic Book Galaxy for his help on this story. If you want to see what he thinks of the whole Authority debacle, click here.

This Has A Rumour Vale Of 5 Out Of 10

Double Edged Blade

Joe Quesada has gone out of his way to tell fans that, unlike previous regimes, no one is “blacklisted” from working at Marvel and they’ll judge any proposals purely on their merit.

Marv Wolfman, in this month’s Comics Journal, disagrees. He says, in conversation with my favourite comic book journalist Michael Dean, “I brought a project to them this summer with an artist attached, which the editors loved and so did the editor in chief. I was then told that the upstairs people wouldn’t let them hire me. I went, ‘OK. Can’t we talk about it?’ And they said ‘I wish we could. We tried. We really would like to do this, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.’ So I moved on. The artists will be working for them, but unfortunately it’s someone I found and have brought into comics in this fashion. I would have loved to have done the job with him.”

Shame, if Marvel had brought him in and got him to sign the new contract before, they’d never have heard a peep out of him over this Blade business…

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out of 10

Sad Steve
Steve Sadowski, popular penciller on JSA has announced he’s been dropped due to his inability to keep a monthly deadline. On the DC Message boards he posted:

    “Well, this is VERY difficult to write..

“What do you want first? Lets go GOOD NEWS!!

“Ever since I began working on JSA there was ONE story that I really wanted to tell. Geoff and I often talked about it, wondering WHEN/IF we could EVER get around to doing it. As of about a week ago, the project was approved on CONCEPT.. story and format pending. It’s a BIG JSA story that NO JSA fan will want to miss!!

“Okay..Now the BAD news.

“Issue 30 of JSA was my last as REGULAR penciller.

“I am doing (almost done) issue 38, and probably issue 39. I am not really at liberty to disclose WHO the new JSA penciller will be, but he’s usually able to do twelve issues a year, so fill ins are unlikely. GOOD NEWS FOR MANY!!

“The situation was this. I am just not fast enough. SIMPLE, really.

“The book had begun to get away from me a little, and my Editor was trying his best to juggle my schedule. This had begun to be a big problem for him. When David came back to do his story, he was adamant that it be one artist for the whole arc. That is why I was pushed ahead.

“I won’t go into the whole weird ‘behind the scenes stuff’ mainly cuz, it’s irrelevant.

“The fact remains..

“I will say I leave with a heavy heart..these are my “babies” , and I’ll miss them very much. I’ve been told no one at DC is happy with this decision, but decisions HAVE to be made every day.

“Now, a request..

“Please do not blame anyone for this decision (if your unhappy about it ), As I said EVERYONE wanted me here, I was just not able to meet a regular monthly schedule.

“There are some REALLY fun things on the horizon. I am tentatively scheduled to do a Power Co. issue, as well as the possibilty of working on something else with one of Geoff’s OTHER gigs..

“Not to mention ‘the PROJECT.’

“So..WISH ME LUCK!! I wish the new guy all the best, he’s a talented guy, and I’m sure he’ll do a good job.

“I’ve appreciated you guys a lot here, and my JSA experience has been nothing but positive. I’ll remember it fondly. It’s been great to be a part of the JSA’s resurrection, and I couldn’t of worked with a better team.

“So..that’s it..seeya ’round..”

Geoff Johns, JSA writer also posted on the thread, saying:

    “Over the last few years, Steve has done a fantastic job on JSA…and will continue to do so. We have a project we’ve already discussed that we hope to get underway mid-next year. It will be special to say the least.

“So a public thanks to Steve for everything he’s done for the JSA and everything he’ll continue to do.

“Don’t worry all. He won’t be far away.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 9 Out Of 10

Money Money Money

The Keep-Rich-Johnston-From-The-Wolf’s-Door Campaign is still ongoing. Donations to the upkeep of this fine scandal muck-raking mag can be made through to Indeed, even just signing up to Paypal by clicking here will automatically be able to receive All The Rage Sneak Peeks on the Friday, Saturday or occasionally Sunday morning before publication.

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