The State Vs Rich Johnston At The Court Constructed From Half-Remembered TV Shows
The court was full. Packed with creators and fans from the entire comic community. In the dock stood Rich Johnston as he conferred with his legal representative Jason Brice.
“You’ve got nothing to worry about Rich. Any judge worth his salt will see through this case, and no jury will convict. Put your faith in twelve men, good and true.”
At that point, the jury and the judge entered. The jury were instantly recognisable, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, Robin Riggs, Elayne Riggs, Matt Brady, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Nat Gertler, Johanna Draper, Sandman2970, Bob Wayne and Paul Jenkins. And the judge, in his fine DC livery, Paul Levitz.
“We’re fucked” said Jason. “You’re on your own mate” he shouted out as he ran for the door.
Paul Levitz sat down, moving Paul Kupperberg out of the way. “What are the charges?” he asked, his slight frame engorged by the Body-Moulded-Superman-Physique-Costume TM he wore underneath his robes.
The prosecutor rose. It was none other than Newsarama writer, Mike Doran. Rich Johnston went into a bit of a decline as Mike began to speak. “Your honour, the crown accuses Rich Johnston of wilful misleading of the public, namely that you named Frank Quitely as the new artist for Daredevil, when in fact, he’d already signed to Grant Morrison’s X-Men comic. Something I revealed exclusively before anyone else. I wrote it, I did, I did.”
“How does the defendant plead?” asked Levitz, his eyes assuredly declaring that today was not a Levitz Love-In occasion.
“Not guilty, your honour!” Rich Johnston’s haggard voice croaked.
“I bet you do” said Paul Levitz. “Let us hear the case for the prosecution.”
Mike Doran exclaimed “I call to the stand, one Joe Quesada.”
With a leap and a bound, Joe jumped over the crowd, into the witness box. “Alright, Paul, how’s it going, no hard feelings about Axel? Oh Mike, before I forget, here’s a grand for not reporting the Al Milgrom story. Now, how about another two if you forget about the upcoming ‘Suing Stan Lee for the use of his own likeness in every life story?'”
Mike looked around nervously. “Later, Joe, later. Joe did you, or did you not poach Frank Quitely from the Authority.”
“I did not, Frank decided to leave early for personal reasons. But Rich here insinuated that I poached him. Bad Richard, naughty Richard, in your bed! And this Daredevil thing, bizarre. Everyone knew he’d be working on X-Men.”
Mark Millar stepped up to the stand. “As much as I like Rich, ye ken, he o’erstepped himsel’ on this wan, like? It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht!” Mark was dragged from the stand, performing a Highland fling coupled with a masonic move of the fourteenth degree. Everyone looked away, embarrassed.
Warren Ellis turned up in the box, using Tom Baker as a ventriloquist’s dummy. “While I fight for press freedom, and the right for the individual voice to be heard, both in my work and in my life, even I have limits. For fuck’s sake, Richard, Daredevil?”
Bill Jemas was called to the stand, but no one could work out why. “I think Rich is great. But I think Paul is great too. This courtroom is fantastic. I like pizza. I like those tiny tiles you get in some bathrooms these days. Trifle, that’s my best. Would you like some?”
As Bill Jemas began to pass small bowls of trifle around the room, the day passed. More witnesses were called, Rich Johnston’s position was clearly in tatters.
Rich did his best. “I urge the court to consider Exhibit A: the Rumour Barrier. It declares that you aren’t meant to take what’s printed as the 100% truth. And Exhibit B: The Rumour Value, it gives an indication of my gut feeling, nothing more. I’m printing rumours for goodness sake.”
Mike smiled. Rich had walked into his clever trap. It was like the Fandom message boards all over again…”But in this case, you put your own integrity behind it. So sure that Frank Quitely was to move to Daredevil were you, despite evidence from Warren Ellis, Cully Hamner, and let’s face it, good old common sense, that you published it anyway. Just as people were starting to say nice things about you on message boards and the like. And to make matters worse, when the truth came out, you tried to weasel out of it by breaking the Art Adams replacement story. And you didn’t even get that right properly! But I did. I did it properly. That was my exclusive, mine, mine, mine.”
At this point, Rich Johnston broke down in tears. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. You’re right, you are the comics reporter on high while I am but scum, that you try to wipe off your shoe and end up scraping it on a kerb…”
Mike turned to Paul Levitz, “What’s more, he hasn’t even bothered with a proper rumour column this week, just a farrago of ill-conceived blather to make up for the fact that he just hasn’t bothered.”
Rich tried one last time. “I object, your honour. I have a number of high profile stories. It’s just taking a while to get them in shape.”
Mike and Paul looked scornfully at this obvious lie. “Pathetic isn’t it?” said Mike. “Whereas my excuses are thoroughly thought through and far more believable.’
The jury departed for all of ten seconds (a delay caused by Marc Alessi misplacing his Mark-Waid-Remote-Control-Unit, leaving Waid immobilised blocking the door and saying, “Hang on, the last thing I remember was writing Empire #3… where am I?” before normal service was quickly resumed). The jury declared “We find the defendant guilty on all charges. And quite a few more while we’re at it.”
Levitz bristled his Superbody and stared hard at the forlon figure of Rich. “Do you have anything to say before I pass sentence?”
Rich looked up, his manipulative manner giving it one last try. “I appeal to you, your honour”
“You clearly do not!”
“I’ll change, your honour. I’ll stop writing meaningless drivel and attempt to And I’ve even written an article for CBG this week as well!”
A horrified shriek ran round the court room.
“CBG? CBG? You, write for CBG?”
“Crucify him” shouted Mike Doran. “Burn him” shouted Kurt Busiek. “Make him a CrossGen character” shouted Mark Waid.
Levitz slowly blaced a black Superman #75 plastic cover on his head. “Then I have no alternative. Rich Johnston, you have been found guilty of first degree incomptence in the role of premier comics industry rumour monger. I sentence you to be pulped. Take him away.”
The sun beat down, like it does in Preacher. Rich Johnston stood above a pulping machine that already was spitting up remnants of previously successful sentences, a panel from Elseworlds 80 Page Giant here, a snippet from League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen #5 there. Even a sliver from the Daredevil Does Dallas that Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas managed get past the internet reporters.
A tomato arced through the air. A perfect parabola from the hands of Robin Riggs. Despite his bizzare appearance, Riggs’ aim was true and the fruit/vegetable entity exploded on Rich’s cheek. Elayne Riggs danced and clapped to see such fun, but a number of pros edged away from her nervously.
But just as Rich Johnston was about to be pushed to his pulping doom, a group of costumed men emerged from the crowd, climbing up the pulping machinery, knocking the guards into the pulping maw and grabbing Rich Johnston by the waist.
“Gods, I’ve been wanting to do that since watching ‘Return Of The Jedi'” said one.
“Never fear citizen, we’re the CGC Crack Squad. You shall be spared a pulping and gain collectable status as a result. And once you’ve shaved and got a decent hair cut, we’ll grade you 10.0 and sell you on Ebay!”
And with those words, Rich Johnston dived into the pulper.
This Has A Rumour Value Of 0 Out Of 10.
The Last Will And Testament Of Rich Johnston
Upon my death-by-pulping, I will it that my remains be sent to a knitting company where I shall be reconstructed in seven days in order to preside over a bunch of new rumours… hopefully none of them involving Frank Quitely.
Until then, let it be known that there is a hot little rumour going around the place that Darwyn Cooke is the new Catwoman artist. Gods, you’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson by now…
This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10
The Trial Of Rich Johnston is a satire published by Silver Bullet Comics, and is not intended maliciously. Silver Bullet Comics has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). Silver Bullet Comics makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceeding information. Although we have just nicked this legal disclaimer from Comic Book Resources’ You’ll All Be Sorry, which is a great column.