When Hell Freezes Over

On rumours that Joe Quesada will be getting Alan Moore to write for Marvel, Warren Ellis wrote on his forum, “Joe Quesada did phone Alan. Alan was very polite. Alan has zero interest in working at Marvel.”

However, Joe Quesada replied, saying “Actaully, Alan didn’t say that to me. He was polite and after talking for a bit simply said that I should call him in 6 months to see how he felt.”

Let the countdown start now!

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 Out Of 10

Moving House Of Ideas

I hear that Marvel is about to move lock, stock and two smoking webspinners, to another location. Moving uptown, pretty soon in the new year, apparently. The reason? Money-saving of course!

So, hey, if anyone’s got a warehouse or two going in the New York area, give them a call!

Neither Bill Jemas nor Joe Quesada responded to enquiries.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10

Who Owns Miracleman? And Where?

The news, first posted by Comics International employee Phil Hall on the CI egroups forum, that Todd McFarlane Productions has given Diamond Comics a Cease-And-Desist notice on distributing the next Comics International if it had the Spawn/Miracleman cover (without actually telling Comics International – only finding out through a chance conversation with a Diamond UK rep – 12 hours later and it would have been a court case) has some interesting, unexplored aspects.

Firstly, CI never expressly asks for permission for a cover in their ten years of publishing – it’s seen as a form of promotion. Indeed, CI have used Spawn covers a number of times without any objections from TMP. So why now?

Dez Skinn was the original publisher of the Alan Moore-revamped Marvelman/Miracleman. Some have seen this issue as Dez’ chance to stake claims into who he believes he owns of the property. It’s not likely that Todd McFarlane Productions would want to encourage that…

The poster has a very limited supply – retailers have to up their orders on Spawn product significantly to qualify for it. However, conversation between CI and Diamond implies that no UK retailer will be getting it. Phil Hall at CI saw this as no UK retailers upping their orders, but there have been reports that some UK retailers have done just that… could it be that TMP will not distribute the poster outside of North America for legal reasons? And with Comics International being a British publication, might this be a sticking point for them using the image as a cover?

Maybe TMP only believes they own North American publishing rights to Marvelman/Miracleman? And just what does Dez Skinn own anyway?

And… um… did this Cease And Desist notice to Diamond only happen after the cover image I’d posted here last week was duplicated on the Spawn messageboard by eager fans? Well, at least that avoided a Cease and Desist notice happening *after* the guys had printed the issue…

Neither Larry Marder nor Beau Smith responded to enquiries.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 out Of 10

What’s The Colour of Money?

Last column’s article on trouble for Marvel colourists has caused a small ruckus. Kevin Tinsley of Stickman Graphics writes:

“An Open Letter Concerning Marvel Comics New Computer Coloring Policy

“At the risk of sounding entirely negative, or jumping into yet another Marvel bashing frenzy, I have placed this open letter expressing my concerns over recent actions taken by Marvel Comics. I do this in the hopes of starting a meaningful and intellectual discourse on a complex, and potentially volatile issue.

“On December 20th, I was informed that my services as a Freelance colorist would no longer be needed by Marvel Entertainment Group. This news was neither unanticipated nor unexpected. To my knowledge, this will not affect my position as a Prepress and Production Consultant for Marvel’s production department.

“In the latter position I have long supported and encouraged the overall transition from color guides to computer colorists. Much of my work as a consultant has been to further this eventual goal. It was part of the reason for writing and publishing Digital Prepress for Comic Books.

“Unfortunately, I find that Marvel’s implementation of this plan to be shortsighted, and in the long term, quite costly.

“There are several major concerns in the implementation of the plan, as well as Marvel’s interaction with its freelancers.

“My major concern is the unwarranted precedent of asking creative freelancers to bid on work, and setting a maximum bid considerably lower than the previously established rates. In some cases more than fifty percent lower. This precedent SHOULD have a chilling effect on the entire freelance community.

“The rational for this rate cut is both groundless and filled with corporate double-speak and misinformation. The claim that the exact same thing happened when digital lettering took hold is patently untrue. Although most hand letterers ultimately ended up unemployed, the companies that ended up dominating the market did not suffer rate cuts. As a matter of fact, their revenue increased as they were supplying additional production jobs. Furthermore, Marvel did not remove the editorial selection of freelancers, and divvy up the entire line of books as a matter of corporate policy.

“The suggestion that colorists pool their talents and form separation companies in order to increase the amount of work they produce is nonsensical. An AVERAGE colorist can only separate one page a day (there are those who can produce more). Pooling your efforts with others will not increase an individuals productivity. And hiring and training assistants is both costly and time consuming. Most freelancers have no desire to run a company, preferring instead to produce art.

“Some colorists have been told that the penciling and inking rates are consuming the books budget, and any more money spent would eliminate the books profitability. First of all, the computer colorists are not asking for any MORE money than is ALREADY being spent to color and separate books. Secondly, any books whose net profits are in risk by paying their freelancer’s established rates shouldn’t be published in the first place. Thirdly, pencilers and inkers should take this as a warning that the company feels that they are being pay too much as well.

“Ultimately, Marvel’s rational is that in the current market conditions, costs must be cut in order to maintain publishing profitably. I concur.

“However, Marvel has already begun utilizing several technological and printing advances to cut costs. Not only is computer coloring in and of itself cost effective, it enhances the cost cutting measures now in place throughout the production and manufacturing of a comic book.

“At this point, I need to turn my attentions to the potential production problems that will invariable ensue from the current policy of lowest bidding vendors.

“One cost cutting measure that Marvel has just recently begun to utilize is direct to plate printing technology. This process streamlines the production process, and eliminates many costs, including film output, blues, color proofs, and the cost of shipping the material back and forth. Not to mention the time savings involved. Computer coloring is a crucial element in this process.

“What some people have not been made to understand, is that this process can be unsympathetic to corrections. Books printed in this fashion are saved as a SINGLE PDF file. That means even a minor correction on a single page becomes costly and time consuming, because it affects an ENTIRE book. Something as minor as in incorrect preference setting can cost over ten thousand dollars to correct (for a four color book).

“Established, long term separators have already made such mistakes. Human error is inevitable. Add into the mix a handful of new separation houses, unfamiliar with the technique. Separation houses with a notoriously high employee turn over and training rate, faced with the inevitable rush deadlines. Those mistakes are going to start to add up.

“Given a relatively conservative estimate of only two such mistakes a month, and Marvel is looking at well over TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS a year. Certainly individual computer colourists can make the same mistakes. But it has been my professional experience that one pair of hands on a job produces fewer mistakes than two dozen.

“To sum up: The long term cost due to outputting and production errors will far outweigh the short term savings that will result from this rate cut. And if Marvel is not careful, it could be painting itself into a corner. If it completely alienates the coloring freelancers, where will it turn if the current crop of separation houses are not up to the task before them?

“Finally, where will this rate cutting bid precedent ultimately lead Marvel? As unlikely as it may sound now, it would not be unreasonable to extrapolate a trend for art studios to bid on producing all artwork for entire books. Nor, the extreme possibility of Marvel ultimately licensing out books to other companies entirely. We have seen similar forays into that arena by Marvel in recent history. Are we looking at a new era of Reborn Heroes? Now there’s an image for you.”

This doesn’t seem to be just one man’s grievance however. Rumour has it that last Monday, Marvel made quite a lot of colour guide colourists as the separation studios step up their responsibilities.

I’ve also heard the rumour, based on our previous ‘Colour Me Curious’ article that Haberlin never broke off from a colourists agreement, but that he was part of the reason it was formed in the first place.

And another source says; “Yet again Marvel chooses a holiday to ruin for a large number of loyal workers!! Oh yeah, and lets not forget all the jobs going overseas to Ireland ( who Joe Quesada called a bunch of butchers ) without guides! Hooray for the
publishers of CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!!!!”

Hmmm, a little overpatriotic for my tastes – remember, they also publish Excalibur starring Captain Britain! But your point is made.

So, there’s lots of rumours flying around, quite a few headless chickens too.

So who better to step up to the plate that Marvel Editor-In-Chief, Joe Quesada. I’d just like to point out that despite criticism in some quarters, Joe is pretty unique as Editor-In-Chiefs go in that he’s happy to stand up and be accountable to the readers and deserves praise for this. Not to mention responding to the beck and call of a snotty little dirtrage reporter such as myself.

Addressing the last point made by our patriotic zealot, Quesada says “The overseas jobs – the contract ends on December 31, I didn’t make up the timing, it is what it is. But on December 31st the bulk of the coloring comes back home to the good ol’ US of A!”

As the the main body of the rumours, Quesada says, “What has actually happened is that our exclusive contract with one of our vendors who got the bulk of our books has ended and it has opened the field for many more colorists to send in bids to color our books. What it does is free up our hands from giving the bulk of the work to one specific house and will in a very short time improve the coloring on all Marvel books across the board. As we moved into the digital age so must the medium and many of our colorist have made the transition from paper color guides to digital.

“Unfortunately, as it’s fairly evident that we are in tough times, Marvel must continue to join the rest of the modern world as it moves into the electronic age and use what’s available to cut its cost. If we do not do this, the effect will be felt immediately on the consumer. The fact that some of the better coloring houses have stepped to the plate with aggressive bids has indeed tilted the tables, but I would be a fool to not entertain these offers just as it would be foolish for a freelancer to work for the lowest paying company. We will still be using most of our highly talented, lone, nonstudio artists on the upper echelon books because in truth that is the only place we can afford them. It’s simple economics and don’t be fooled, it’s not like colorists are the first ones who have had to take a serious look at their pricing, this has been going on for years now as all of that rich, fat Image money dried up.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10

The Best At What He Does

According to Ultimate X-Men writer, Wolverine and Jean are going to be shagging. Any Blur-style “whoo hoo” sounds you may hear is just my inner-teenager popping out for a second in glee.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 9 Out Of 10

DC Who?

Oh yeah, what’s happened to all the decent DC stories these days? Wasn’t long ago, you couldn’t move without scandal upon scandal flowing out of their doors. Has the case of such problems been stemmed? Or have the doors tightened further?

This Has A Rumour Value Of ? Out Of 10. I’m Just Making It Up As I Go Along…

Send any more scandals, gossip and general nonsense this way, as next week I do my first annual Rumour Awards! Bring popcorn.

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