Beyond The Absent Fringe

Are you a big Grant Morrison fan? Wish you were in Edinburgh talking to the baldy lanky comic writer fellow? Well you can be…

Okay no, you can’t. But Grant Morrison will be onboard for a live BBC Online Chat as part of their Edinburgh Festival activity. It’s on Tuesday 29th of August from 9pm-10pm GMT. Knock off about 5 hours for US East Coast, about 8 hours for US West Coast.

Ask him about Invisibles, Disco Biscuits, Zoids, JLA, Silver Surfer, Marvel Boy, Zenith, Animal Man, Mystery Play, hard drugs, psychedelic sex, going out on a cold night without a hat when you’ve shaved all your hair off – it’s your call.

Look for details and the chat itself at http://www.bbc.co.uk/edfest

And feel free to print out or distribute this advert in your local comics emporium!

This Has A Rage Value Of Nine Out Of Ten


Paul Levitz Love-In Appeal

Last week, I put out an appeal for warm, cuddly stories about Paul Levitz guaranteed to warm the cockles of both his and our collective heart.

One reader writes to say “When I was at San Diego a couple of years ago, Paul Levitz gave me a winning smile. He certainly lifted my morale that day!”

Another says “I haven’t any stories, but Levitz and Levity are only separated by one letter, and y and z are practically the same in the alphabet. Pulping all these comics might be a really outrageous practical joke.”

Yet another writes “I haven’t got any stories about Paul Levitz but I have a great one about Mike Carlin.” I’m sorry, that’ll have to wait for whenever we get round to doing a Mike Carlin Love-In Appeal. This is the Paul Levitz Love-In Appeal, remember.

A comics pro goes on “I actually like Paul a lot. He gave me a break. It was clean, no infection and I just wore the leg cast for a few months.”

Ha ha, very funny, please take your humour elsewhere, this is a serious campaign, damn it! I’m pretty disappointed to be honest. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Finally I get a genuine, sincere one from a comics insider. “Paul was fabulous to Neal Posner when he was sick. He gave him a job, he kept him on the job, and he never treated him with anything less than respect and
affection. No pity, no condescension.”

And then Mark Millar, on the DC Comics Authority message board posted in answer to a question, “What do I think of Paul Levitz? Well, anyone who knows me will confirm that I never beat around the bush and you all know by now that I do so much stuff outside DC’s jurisdiction that I couldn’t give a monkey’s what they think of me, but I actually LIKE Levitz. Here’s why.”

“Besides the fact that he was instrumental with Jenette in getting a better deal for creators (a deal which has made many of them very rich indeed) and that he does a lot of stuff in the background which you never hear about in terms of finding work for the older freelancers and taking care of health plans for people who have been good to DC in the past, he actually really, really helped me when I needed it most. Here’s what happened:”

“Last summer, my one year old contracted diabetes and almost died. She was in hospital for a month and in this same time I was fired off the book I was writing and three projects I’d been developing for DCU had the plug pulled in the space of ten days. My wife and I were emotionally distraught and suddenly found ourselves, for about ten days, unemployed (this, of course, being before Wildstorm and Marvel saved my ass).”

“To make matters worse, the last three cheques I was due disappeared in the transatlantic mail. I suddenly had a kid in hospital, no job and no money. I called DC and they said I’d have to wait a couple of weeks to even VOUCHER again and my wages would take a further two weeks beyond that to reach me. The situation was desperate and I made a lot of calls, getting a great deal of sympathy from people who basically couldn’t help but wished they could.”

“I thought it was a long shot, but I went right to the top and explained the situation to Paul Levitz in a brief telephone call. He assured me that he would take care of the situation personally and wired all the missing cash into my bank account THAT NIGHT. He’s running a huge organization up there, but he took care of this personally and then spent an hour on the phone asking how the baby was doing.”

“As much as the business stuff can create animosity between freelancers and management sometimes, the personal stuff is what counts when the chips are down. That’s why I’ll always have a soft spot for Levitz. He isn’t just
another corporate suit.”

Any more stories anyone?

This Has A Rage Value Of Seven Out Of Ten


Brooklyn Dodgy

We were told that Jimmy Palmiotti was giving up the pressures of Marvel Knights to spend more time with his family. He’d still do some comic work, and his involvement with Wizard’s Black Bull comics was cited as evidence of that.

Well, the rumour was that that Jimmy’s been an even busier boy that we gave him credit for, setting up a weird/gross out/pornography website called Brooklyn Bizarro.

A quick hyperlink later and I’m confronted with a site that contains lots of weird stuff from fake naked shots of Hilary Clinton to a gallery of Jimmy’s wife and Black Bull artist, Amanda Conner’s Vampirella covers.

The registered owner of the site is Wizard World’s Buddy Scalera, co-writer with Jimmy Palmiotti on Daredevil.

And according to one technical bod, the site not only links to Wizard World but also one of its stored graphics for the site.

So we asked around.

M Delfini told us the “basic idea about Brooklyn Bizarro came up while Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Delfini and Buddy Scalera were sitting in a bar. We were talking about the net and how a lot of sites are kind of boring. We wanted to do a adult site that didn’t just have porn but other cool adult material such as gore, fun shit, girls. The site is growing through the recruitment of friends who have or offer cool skills or talents… Basically we are still underground and travel through word of mouth and have at steady following of around 5500 to 6000 hits a month.”

Buddy Scalera said “I design and maintain brooklynbizarro.com on the side. I use it to try out new graphic tricks and techniques. Plus, it’s a good way to unwind and relax.”

And Jimmy Palmiotti replied “Hey Rich, glad you liked the site. I’m pretty much the bank for the site as well as a contributing photographer. It’s just a sick fun place to put stuff up and cause a good laugh around the internet. It’s like the basement of a friend’s house when you are growing up, if you can understand what I mean.”

We know what you mean Jimmy… now tidy that place up and get rid of all those dirty tissues!

This Has A Rage Value Of Nine Out Of Ten


Chair Amnesty

I received a copy of a letter sent to Todd McFarlane by Amnesty International. Enjoy:

Dear Mr. McFarlane,

The Canadian, Dutch, Italian, and USA Sections of Amnesty International are writing to express our concern over your production and distribution of a so-called “toy” entitled Death Row Marv. We understand this figure is being sold in specialty stores in the United States, Canada, and Europe to people aged 13 and older.

Although Amnesty International is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty, we welcome all serious discussions, encompassing the widest spectrum of opinion, on the issue. However, the promotion of a “toy” that suggests to people of all ages that this is an issue that need not be taken seriously only serves to perpetuate a climate of disrespect for human rights.

While Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, and many other countries have abolished the death penalty, the United States has not. We believe that people in all countries deserve to be given the facts on capital punishment and the reasons that Amnesty International considers it the ultimate human rights violation. The promotion of a “toy” that mocks a form of violence condemned by more than half the countries in the world today encourages disregard for the basic human dignity of all people.

Compelling evidence exists that death in the electric chair is unspeakably horrible. Some influential medical experts believe that unconsciousness – let alone death – is seldom instantaneous and that the pain is excruciating.

Frequent malfunctions of the electric chair only compound its horror.

Every execution is a premeditated killing. Your product treats the suffering, degradation, and death of human beings as a suitable subject for profit and amusement. In our view, corporate ethics require that businesses promote and respect basic human rights values, both in the workplace and in their products. We urge you to give serious consideration to the negative human rights message that this “toy” conveys and to respond accordingly.

For your information and review, we have enclosed a copy of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Principles for Companies, which contains a recommended code of conduct for all businesses.

We look forward to your reply to our concerns at your earliest possible convenience.

Sincerely,

William F. Schulz
Executive Director
AI USA

You know, they could at least have sent him a letter about those oh-so-worker-friendly toy factories in East Asia that Todd was so proud to show photos of in his comics a few years ago… I contacted McFarlane Toys without any response.

This Has A Rage Value Of Nine Out Of Ten


Scionist Uprising?

I’ve been hearing a few awkward things from some CrossGen creators. Apparently, things are not well at CrossGen. “A lot of the creators are seriously hating the working conditions, as they’re not only encouraged but expected to spend as much time as possible at the compound. Everyone’s contract is up this spring, and several of the pencillers and quite a few of the support staff will most likely not be returning.”

Barbara Kesel, Head Writer at CrossGen responded “Fear not: no mass walkout in sight. Part of the idea behind CrossGen is that all of us would come to the office to create comics together (like a job) and then go home to families and friends on evenings and weekends (like a job) and receive regular paychecks and benefits (like a job). There are no term contracts; people can quit any time they want (like a job).”

“CrossGen is a business. No matter what the business is, it has to create a structure to survive. CrossGen is a great place to create comics, but it is not, and no place could possibly be, for everyone. Yes, some people don’t like it. No, they’re not the majority.”

“Most of the artists and writers who came to CrossGen were unhappy with the current freelancer system for as many reasons as we have people: spotty assignments, no retirement/insurance, late payments, inconsistent feedback, lack of follow-through, miscommunications, etc. The studio system at CrossGen was designed to alleviate most of those impediments to creating good comics. As with any new system, there will be bumps in the road. (Like discovering you need to use fill-in artists when you weren’t planning to…See my answer to rumor #2.) But, duh: You can’t expect 35 strangers to come together from all over the country and immediately be a conflict-free sitcom-happy Mouseketeer revival… there are going to be stresses and strains and people who just plain don’t fit. For the most part, we’re finding that the plus column is MUCH higher than the minus one, and most of us are looking forward to a future at CrossGen.”

“But, just as a certain percentage of people hire into and then leave a company, a certain percentage of people will come to and then leave CrossGen. There are bound to be some situations where the system won’t work for someone. Cause it’s a job. We’re producing commercial art. We all love the medium, but this is a business, not an artists’ retreat. It can’t be a successful business if we employees don’t meet our commitments. Unlike most jobs, though, we’re part-owners: 25% of the company belongs to the employees. (Profits only; we don’t have to absorb our part of the cost of getting here, thank God.)”

“Does this mean some people might leave? Certainly. While CrossGen offers many plusses, some people would rather have the freedom of the unstructured freelance life. The in-house studio model represents a big change from working solo. For instance, I enjoy the energy here, but I don’t think my husband (that’s the loving and talented Karl Kesel, don’tcha know…) could write in this environment.”

“No, no one is “encouraged or expected to spend as much time as possible at the compound.” We all agreed to two things: certain hours of access, and certain deadlines. We are paid well but we are expected to work for a living. Making the schedule (which is five weeks per book) is part of the deal. If you’re falling behind, you’re expected to make up the time (like a job!).”

“Of course, any job has some level of stress. I could never work for a newspaper; I hate the idea of facing that deadline wall EVERY DAY! As we approach the first fill-ins, everybody is feeling normal deadline pressure. Gaining back four weeks will make for many deep sighs as the pressure eases. And then we’ll be back to work, because we have commitments to fans and retailers and distributors and each other.”

“Most of us are better off here than we were in our freelance lives. When CrossGen turns out to be a success, we will change the way artists and writers are treated by the big companies, and provide more opportunities for new artists and writers. I personally want to raise the bar for acceptable levels of writing in comics; that’s a goal supported by my boss and my company and I’m much more effective working on that here than from my home. But there’s no CrossGen and no mission and no opportunities if we don’t have a committed team performing to schedule. (Gag… I’m sounding like a cheerleader, but I love the idea of this company and I’m working hard to help it succeed, so I guess I do qualify for the little pleated skirt and pom-poms…)”

“CrossGen is not an easy place to work. It’s good, but it’s not party central…it’s a business. One centered around rewarding talent more than administrators for the creation of mainstream, commercial comic books. For instance, at CrossGen, the average creative salary is higher than the highest salary on the management side. (Mark just asks that we continue to earn it.)”

“And we must be succeeding. Cause we’re in rumors! Yay!”

The rumour continued “Oh, and don’t think that this “fill-in-month” that they’re advertising is rubbing anyone the right way either. It isn’t. Apparently, everyone is way ahead of schedule, and CrossGen just wanted the opportunity to promote the books with some bigger-name talent for an issue.”

Barbara replied “This is funny. I wish we’d though of this. I WISH we’d done it on purpose.”

“We’re on schedule, but we’re not THAT far ahead of the system that we’d go to the trouble of coordinating things with freelance artists if it hadn’t been needed.”

“Here’s the reality: One of the “epidemics” of the comic business is creator burnout. Mark and Brandon wanted to make sure we created a schedule that would keep artists productive enough to keep a company solvent without being so overloaded they would crash and burn. Fans appreciate long-term creator continuity; creators appreciate periods of rest. We looked for the best balance.”

“Our pencillers were hired to produce ten issues per year, with deadlines of five weeks per issue. That’s approximately a page a day per five-day week, plus covers, web site art, misc. ads, etc. 5 weeks times 10 issues equals 50 weeks. Then there’s vacation time to be scheduled. The penciller’s year is full up at ten issues, but there are twelve months in a year…”

“To publish every month, we need two months of different teams…We always knew fill-in artists were in the cards. We just thought we’d “grow our own” in time through our Associate Penciler program. Steve McNiven, our first “graduate,” is pencilling two of the four fill-ins. Big-name talent? Not yet. But that’s what we’re training him for. Our other Associate isn’t quite up to speed yet and we didn’t want to force the issue (pun cheerfully intended!).”

“Batt and J.D. Smith were contacted because they work well together and Brandon knew them from Top Cow. Since Steve is new, we wanted to use veterans to play up his every strength while shoring up any weakness, as we liked using a team that already knows how to work together. J.D. Smith will also color Steve’s Mystic fill-in.”

“Mike Wieringo was asked to do the Meridian fill-in because Josh Middleton and he got into a mutual appreciation session at San Diego. In fact, we signed on the whole Tellos team: Mike, inker Rob Stull, and colorist Paul Mounts, who will be doing double-duty on Meridian and Scion.”

“Ron’s known Rick Leonardi for a long time and thought his style was compatible with Jim Cheung’s. I’ve known Karl for a long time and knew he liked inking Rick’s art.”

“No big plan, no great mysteries. Just plain ol’ gold star fill-ins. But I like your rumor better than the reality. Maybe we ought to just keep it circulating, because it makes me laugh.”

Barbara Kesel, ladies and gentlemen, takes a negative rumour and spins out positive publicity. And guess what, I’ve completely fallen for it! 😎

This Has A Rage Value Of Three Out Of Ten


Bill Rosemann Should Really Stay Off The Mushrooms

Bill Roseman, otherwise known as Your Man @ Marvel finally replies to enquries about last week’s X-rumours, first about Claremont changing his X-responsibilities:

“And I’ve been told that Mark Twain will come back to life and write X-MEN! It seems reports of his death were greatly exaggerated! (This gets a Bill’s Babbles ranking of 7!)”

And as to the line-up of the X-Men comic reflecting that of the film, Bill writes “And I hear that Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan will personally travel to readers’ houses—for free—and deliver dramatic readings of Professor X and Magneto’s upcoming appearances in the comics! (This gets a Bill’s Babbles rate of 6!)”

As to a new explanation of how Claremont will do an X-Men / Avengers crossover without needing to consult the Avengers creative or editorial team, Bill writes “Because rumor has it that after years of writing the X-Men, Chris himself has finally unleashed his own mutant power! I hear he can actually see into the future! (This gets a Bill’s Babbles rate of 5!)”

And as to the denied ties between X-Men Forever and the Ultraverse, Bill writes “And I hear that the series will also feature the comeback of U.S.1, the NFL SuperPro and Team America! (This gets a Bill’s Babbles rate of 4!)”

Bill concludes “Hope these rumored answers help clear up the raging debates swirling about those rumored rumors!”

Thanks Bill. I think. Gods, I never get these kinds of problems with Patty. At least when I ask her why DC have no problem with the Big Book Of Conspiracies Hubbard story when they have a big problem with the Tomorrow Stories version, she has the decency to say “no comment”.

This Has A Rage Value Of One Out Of Ten


Wee Joke

Mark Millar writes on the Authority DC Comics message board at www.dccomics.com. “I’m half-way through the final part of Earth Inferno (yeah, I’m late but the comic should still be out on time because Frank is only a couple of pages behind me). Just written a scene where The Midnighter urinates on a villain via the DOOR mechanism on The Carrier and feeling oddly pleased with myself.”

We look forward to seeing it, Mark. If the scene makes it through…

This Has A Rage Value Of Nine Out Of Ten


Rich Johnston Love-In Appeal

On the same Authority board (and entirely unprompted by me), Mark Millar wrote “I LOVE Rich Johnston. Seriously. I’ve known him for years. What I ESPECIALLY like is how he’s the one man who rattles the people in charge. He’s untouchable, you see — and a valuable source of the truth. I’ve suggested the freelancers SPONSOR his column.”

Now there’s a thought… anyone?

If you’ve comment about anything in this column, tell me in private on [email protected] or shame me in public on Kick Rich In The Bollocks, a dedicated message board to this column.

About The Author