Monday, November 29, 2004


Rich Johnston Interview (cont.)

JIM LEE: Hmmm seems a lot of your biggest pieces dealt with DC and WS. Ever guess how many dollars in lost productivity some of your stories may create? There was one recent piece which you did not run, if I may bring to light now, where you emailed me and asked about a story connected to me and my run on Superman. After many frantic phone calls by myself to confirm elements of the story, I convinced you there was no truth to the matter (which was the truth). But I can easily say the combined amount of time and money spent to track down the truth required to dismiss that rumor cost quite a penny, just in lost productivity. Multiple that per each story and per week and well, you get quite a few more pennies I would imagine.

RICH JOHNSTON: Maybe I'm influenced by who's talking to me. Remember, I didn't invent that story, it came to be from comic book professionals. If that rumour had been more widespread, it could have done more damage to your career at some point later down the line. There are many stories about, say, John Byrne which appear to be totally fictitious, but because they couldn't be stamped on at the time, they continue to do him damage. As to the cost, this is why I mostly go through company's PR people - they're paid to do this. Overall I feel, and hope, that the column's existence only encourages interest in comics and the industry. Maybe it'll keep some of them around a little longer. In those terms, that's pennies gained. And a plug or two in LITG, because of the audience it has gained, sells comics. A negative story I wrote last week about Jimmy Jay's lucrative selling of Youngblood issues it was stated he'd sent to Diamond, nevertheless brought him significant business with a link...

And for some people who were able to get their affairs in order before CrossGen went bankrupt, by reading the column, it may have saved their house.

Speaking of stories, which was the hardest for you to report and why? Was it cause of personal relationships? Companies or professionals leaning on you (wasn't there a bit a while back where a big name writer forced a site to drop you and your column?).

The hardest stories are the ones I don't run. I guess when it involves a company's financial position, and you know that this is going to take down people's jobs, and sometimes the messenger gets the flack. CrossGen was one.But comics professionals leaning generally makes me want to dig deeper. A polite word goes much further than physical threats. Right, Mark Waid? And ah, yes, The Gutter Press for NextPlanetOver. Came between Rich's Revelations and All the Rage. Whether it was enraged creators withdrawing cooperation or enraged publishers withdrawing ads. Never affected me personally, I just moved to a different website that appreciated the hits.

You must get hear a tremendous amount of do you decide what to run and what to toss?

Generally I use myself as a barometer. Am I interested in it?Generally stories of a very personal nature will get a much tougher filter, than those of business. You won't be reading about Jim Lee's dalliances with an under-age Italian mountain goat in my column. Or if I do, I won't mention any names.

What's the best story you didn't report. Obviously you can't names, specifics but can you speak of it generally.

It involved sex.

With underage mountain goats?

Is there any other kind of sex?

You big kidder.

Now that you are an institution, I know many read your column religiously every week, myself included--do you feel your stance on reporting the dirt has changed? Softened? Been compromised by the fact you are now a part of the industry rather than a cheeky observer?

I dunno, it feels the same. If anything it just means I'll get a response from email inquiries whereas before I wouldn't have. But I'm hardly part of the industry. More like a parasite. Something to be taken account of sometimes, sure, but I have less influence on comics than say Harry Knowles has on movies.

Why is that? Even looking at other websites devoted to reviewing comics like Fourthrail or Hero Realm. Any theories why the fans don't seem to be measurably affected by what online reviewers or columnists have to say? If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that in Hollywood, you have a lot of people running the show who aren't fans per se of fantasy or comic books but greenlight projects in said genres because that’s what’s in vogue now and will reap the biggest bang for the buck. So there can be a big disconnect between what they see as "cool" and what the fans want. Whereas in comics, most of the people involved in running the companies were and continue to be fans now.

I don't think that's any different in Hollywood really. Critical flops often become box office sensations.

Do you feel sympathy for any of the people who have fall into some nasty business or are do you choose targets who more or less hoist themselves on their own petards?

Sometimes you can trace out an unfortunate series of events, but when you compare, say, the way Val Staples of MVC has dealt with such problems, compared to, say Dreamwave,, Chaos, CrossGen and others, the sympathy falls away.

What is your overall assessment of the people who form our little industry in general terms.

Just like any other entertainment industry, the same politics, competition, bitchiness, self-righteousness, same self-obsessions, same deceits... just on a much smaller scale.

How do you feel about people using anonymous handles to try and plant a
story for use as marketing.

Happy to be of service.

Speaking of comics, which, if any, do you read for fun and why?

I read them all for fun! Top Twenty right now? Ex Machina, Ultimates, Eightball, Dork, Viz Comic, Battle Royale, Savage Dragon, Walking Dead, We3, Promethea, Avengers, Hellblazer, New X-Men, Wanted, Acme Novelty Library, Finder, Blue Monday, Hopeless Savages, Jack Staff and Kane. Next month, half of those will be different.

Weird question but are you comped or do you spend your hard earned pounds on them?

Comped? Ha! No... no, spend my money. Currently having to make some cutbacks due to impending child, but I shop at Gosh Comics, Comics Showcase and Orbital in London, order online from and I also sell stuff I no longer want on eBay.

People sometimes send me free comics. But it's very rarely anyone from the front of Previews.

Have another ten. Daredevil, Robocop, Dicks, Hate Annual, Love & Rockets, Sleeper, Queen And Country, Lucifer, Planetary, Sleaze Castle (despite no new issues for ages, just reread them this week. The greatest comic book the industry never noticed.)

Any advice to future columnists?

Make sure you've got more than two columns in you.

Yeah, I've noticed. When they (the other columnists) are reduced to a column featuring only message board posts…well, you know it's game over. I also happen to think writing style plays a lot into it. I think the British just write in a much cheekier style when it comes to gossip. Take a read of Reload and compare it to say FHM. I appreciate some nice wordplay before jumping right into the dirty bits.

That may be part of it. I feel my influences in Marina Hyde, Popbitch and Matthew Norman, rather than Harry Knowles and Matt Drudge.

Hmm now that I think about you think there's room for more columnists considering how small our business is. Can all the shenanigans really support more than 1 or 2?

Currently there's me, The Beat, whoever is doing All The Rage this week, Fanboy Rampage, Comics Outsider, Borderline, JD, Comics Reporter.... more to come I'm sure.

For those contemplating taking on the nexus of all rumors… you’ve been running a gossip/news column longer than any other columnist out there. Obviously it is not as easy as it looks as many have tried to usurp your crown. What is the hardest part of your job?

Catching all my typos before going the print. Never happened. That and
I guess coming up with new material on a weekly basis. There have been
lots of similar columns that have gone great guns for the first two
weeks, as the writer uses up all the stories they've come across in
their life, and suddenly struggles to get enough rumours for their
third column. 2004 is my tenth year of comics gossip rumouring and it
doesn't get easier.

How long does it take to write your column? I guess describe the process.

About sixteen hours, spread over a week, and concentrated on the Saturday and Sunday. The week is spent following up leads, doing research and just looking for threads hanging out that could use with a tweak. First draft Friday and Saturday, and copies of relevant sections send out to involved parties for comment. Second draft Sunday, checked through again then sent for publication.

Sounds like a lot of work honestly…why do you write LITG? Other getting paid, what's in it for you? Is
it a personal crusade or fun and if fun, how so?

I started writing it because I wanted to read it, and it didn't exist.Now I enjoy it, and I've got a readership which won't let me quit!

Some quickies wrap this up:
Most fascinating person in comics in your opinion right now:

Alan Moore. He does it on purpose, the hermitious bastard.

Best comic series:

Sleaze Castle.

You will all read this, you will.

Biggest project of 2004 you could give a damn about:


Most misunderstood person in comics:

Bill Jemas.

Most hoisted on their own petard in 2004:

Marc Alessi.

Best comic series written by someone with the initials RJ:

Well, can you think of anyone else?

Still waiting on Holed Up 3...

One thing which would help the comics industry would be to change:

Distribution network. The content is there or thereabouts. Still too hard to get it in people's hands.

Last question, Rich—you’re about to have a kid soon, and have just celebrated another birthday. How long do you envision being the nexus of rumors? Any future plans that you can discuss?

Well, we all know what happened to your output when you had a kid. Current plans are for the column to go on hiatus, maybe go bi-weekly, maybe stop, maybe be replaced by something else, maybe I'll explode and go supernova like the Human Torch did.

Thanks, Rich, and Happy Birthday. Is there a snailmail address where I
can send you a little brick of coal?

At the end of every Lying In The Gutters! 8-)

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