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Love & Theft

By Markisan Naso
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I just read the latest Ambidextrous and I noticed that Brandon’s thinking about skipping his next column in order to move house. Well, that’s exactly why I left you hanging last week. Moving sucks. But it sucks even more when you have to try and complete a column wedged between boxes marked “Girl Stuff” as the stench of mop-and-glo kicks your olfactory ass.

Thus the skip last week. But I’ll tell you one thing we never skip, and that’s giving props to our awesome sponsor, Dynamic Forces. If you buzz over to their site right this second you’ll be able to take advantage of their daily special: INDEPENDENT DAY! You’ll get: Divine Right #1 signed by Jim Lee, Lady Death: Judgment War #1 DFE Painted Cover signed by Brain Pulido, Painkiller Jane/Darkchylde Preview Book signed by Randy Queen, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, Vampirella: Death and Destruction #1 signed by Tom Sniegoski, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, and Steampunk: Catechism #1 signed by Joe Kelley and Chris Bachalo. All this independentness for just $19.93.

But now that I’ve returned we can safely put the house moves and skip weeks behind us. So, first order of business — fuck a double-sized column. Second order of business — two quick stories, one of which is actually comics-related.

OJ On the Run

For some ridiculous reason I made it to work early on Tuesday, so I decided to drive to the local MacDonald’s and buy myself an Egg McMuffin and some juice. As the drive-thru girl hands me the cup, the top pops off and she dumps half the OJ in my lap. So, I’m sitting there, soaked in sticky fruit beverage, wondering why I’m not wearing those stupid, spill resistant Dockers I see every time I turn on the TV, when the girl in the window calmly says to me, “Would you like another juice?”

Hawkish

Every day the first thing I do in my glorious National Safety Council cube is check out the comic news sites to see what creator interviews are up. Last week I found a couple featuring Geoff Johns on his various projects. I’m down with the Johns, so I printed some copies. It just so happened that my friend, the Captain, was printing up some 45-page PDF job at the same time. As I waited for his tome to finish I suddenly got impatient. “How long is this thing gonna freakin’ take, Cap?” I asked. Two seconds later the Captain’s Safety Encyclopedia was complete and my interview shot out. Cap grabbed my printout and a puzzled look burst all over his face. It was a look unseasoned by years spent between the pages of comics. He read the first sentence in complete disbelief, “Life hasn’t been easy for Hawkman?!?”

Now, on to the rumors. A lot of quick hits this week, as I just got my computer running Saturday afternoon due to the move and to crappy Comcast service.


MAX Made In Heaven

A couple weeks ago I wrote up something on Mark Millar (Ultimates) possibly re-launching Punisher as a MAX ongoing for Marvel around the same time the film is released. For those that don’t know, the Millar Punisher is definitely on. It will be a MAX mini-series with art by Frank Quitely (New X-Men). And it won’t replace the ongoing, according to Millar.
    Yeah, I'm doing Punisher for the movie, but not the reg series. That's Garth's baby, mate.
This Has A “Perhaps Now There’s Hope For Fuckface Jr.” Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten


Too Many Bats in the Belfry, Alfred?

I’ve been told that there will be a 5th ongoing Batman title coming out later this year, and I’m not talking about Batman/Superman. This is something new. In fact I’ve heard talk that the title could very well be Batman and Robin.

I can’t believe another Bat book is even being considered. Let’s just hope some DC genius doesn’t redesign the costumes to include nipples.



This Has A “Bat Pointless” Factor Of Seven Out Of Ten


Spand-X
There’s a rumor on http://forums.millarworld.biz/viewtopic.php?t=5557 that the X-Men will be returning to their traditional blue and yellow spandex costumes this fall.

Hmm.. despite my objection to bat nipples above, I am fine with that fashion statement when it comes to Jean Grey or Emma Frost. A half inch halter-top adjustment and Emma’s there anyway.

Update: At www.joequesada.com Joe has squashed the costume change rumor. When asked, he said simply, "Nope."

Thanks to Dan for the link.



This Has A “Cold Wind And Ice Cubes” Factor Of Two Out Of Ten


Spidey Jr.

On the Spidey Message Boards, a rumor from Lying in the Gutters is circulating that artist Salvador Larocca will be jumping on either Amazing Spider-Man or Uncanny X-Men after he finishes his six-issue run on Namor.

Earlier this week it was announced that Larocca will bail on the boy Sub-Mariner for another project. The messages also indicate that John Romita Jr. is leaving Spidey to do a creator owned book.

But at least part of this rumor can’t be true according to longtime Spidey artist John Romita Jr., who responded to the posts:
    Negatory!!...I'm not leaving Amazing for a creator owned title. I am, however, doing a creator owned title on my own time...weekends, if need be, but it will not interrupt Spidey. So it looks like you're all stuck with me!

    I approached my friend, Glen Brunswick, co-writer of "Frequency", with a years old idea that I had been working on. We put our heads together and turned it into a great, detailed treatment. So I guess you could say I'm co-plotter. Glen will be the dialogue man and I'll try the chicken scratches. Hah!
The creator-owned book John refers to is The Gray Area.

This Has A “Can Spidey Shoot His Webs In Water?” Factor Of Four Out Of Ten


The Nichols Art Caper

It’s come to my attention that current Moonstone, and former Valiant artist, Art Nichols (Magnus: Robot Fighter), failed to deliver commissioned art pieces to collectors a few years ago, despite having received payments. Nichols had posted an ad on the yahoogroup, Comicart-L, in 2000, offering to draw commissioned pieces for reasonable prices. His identity was confirmed by reputable dealer Spencer Beck of The Artist's Choice, and people began sending in money orders and requests for art pieces.

At first, Art was friendly and seemed eager to do the pieces. Then suddenly he disappeared. “After a few months, (first noticed on 11-27-2000) I saw in my duties as list moderator that Art Nichols e-mail address was returning e-mails as bounced because his account was full, which means he was not reading messages at that address anymore,“ says David Morris. “Posts were sent to the list inquiring if ANYONE had received anything from Art, and at that point we realized that no one was able to get in touch with him anymore, and no one had received any artwork. His art agent said that he had to cut off his own ties with Art in the intervening time, as he had already advanced art monies for future sales of comic pages already in his possession, and that his lawyer had advised him not to forward Art's phone number or any other contact information on to anyone looking to get in touch with him.”

To this date people still haven’t been able to reach Art, nor have they received the pictures they paid for. Rumor has it that Art has specifically asked Moonstone to withhold his contact information in order to avoid the situation. I’ve received many stories from unsatisfied customers, some of whom have claimed mail fraud against Nichols. There are way too many to print, so here are a few selected ones:
    From Enrico Salvini

    On mid-May 2000, a guy named Kelly posted on the Comicart-L that Art Nichols was taking orders for commission and included a price list, adding that turnaround time would be around a week depending on the position on the list. Payment to be done through money order. Some lister commented that it was strange that someone would advertise commissions when Art already had a representative -- Spencer Beck of The Artist's Choice -- so Spencer chipped in and confirmed that it was indeed Art (through an assistant) that posted the message and that he did so upon his suggestion.

    Being that Spencer is an upstanding dealer with whom I've had -- before and since -- many satisfying deals, and being the prices extremely fair, on May 18 I went out and requested an 11x17" three-character Magnus Robot Fighter piece with background and a full-blown 11x17" Frank Zappa portrait: all in all, it was a $175 order. Like I said, very fair prices. A few emails went back and forward between me and Kelly in the following days (May 18-22) to make sure that everything was clear and to agree on another form of payment because in Italy it was a pain to send money orders through the mail. We agreed on well-concealed cash and, on June 1, Kelly (now signing off as Art) confirmed delivery of my envelope containing payment and descriptions: all seemed to be well.

    After a couple months, I dropped a line to Art/Kelly asking if I was getting any closer to the top of the list: silence. After a week, I hit "resend": more silence. I let another week go by and hit "resend" again: the silence started to be pretty loud so, every week I kept hitting "resend" with no results. On September 11 I posted to the Comicart-L with Art's name in the subject line asking what was happening: guess what? Silence. From Art, anyway: some other lister started posting about getting the same treatment and some heat started building, even towards Spencer who "vouched" for him at the beginning of the whole thing.

    At this point Spencer picked up the phone, called Art and then posted that he was having troubles with his PC and couldn't get online, but everything was fine. This put everybody at ease for a while, but then, on November 26, someone asked for Art's new address because [email protected] was bouncing as "unknown". Someone came up with another addy, [email protected], but that bore no replies either. In January 2001, Spencer posted about a sale he was having, and someone asked about the Nichols artwork he had available, inquiring about the commissions: Spencer tried to call Art to no avail, and I believe he also had an official letter sent to him. That brought no result so, on March 6, 2001, Spencer suggested to file for Mail Fraud at USPS. Of course such a step is the very last resort that one would want to take, at least in our small collecting community, so a few months went by before someone got fed up with the situation and actually filed a report: believing that strength is in numbers, many of the others who got scammed -- me included -- filed too. About a month later, some of us also filed at the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center.

    Since then, nothing happened. Art disappeared completely and only recently resurfaced at Moonstone Publishing. Someone who works there and is also on the list informed us that Art asked his contacts to be kept private and, to me, this means that he's very, very worried that someone might get hold of him and ask for the money back, or just right out sue him.

    Now, I'm not saying that Art is an evil person, but he sure made a lot of enemies by being a very unprofessional individual: when you owe money to a number of people, even if your computer is broken, it's not so hard to shoot a message to the people in case and tell'em what's happening. He pretty much shot fish in a barrel when he posted that first time on the list, and also took advantage of Spencer's good heart by profiteering out of his voucher.


    From Magnus Ramström

    I heard from fellow art collector and all round great guy Enrico Salvini that you are looking to hear about the Art Nichols fiasco a couple of years ago. I believe I was one of the biggest suckers in that mess.

    Myself I've given up hope long, long time ago, but I must say I'm glad and thankful that you are willing to listen to us.

    My story:
    One day on the Comicart-L mail list a new mailer shows up and offers commissions by Art Nichols. It all looks very amateurish, but honest. For example, the same email is sent many times and the business details are very sketchy. So people are curious but cautious. Then dealer Spencer Beck confirms that the emails come from someone representing Mr Nichols.

    So I blast of a real fan-boy email and ask if there is room for me in the queue. So Art himself answers and thanks for my nice words and confirms that he will have time for an order from me. I then ask if I at the same time can send along some items for him to sign (living in Sweden I seldom go to comic shows so I ask creators for favours like this now and then). Also I had to discuss payment with him as he wanted a money order made out to the bearer and I could only have one made out to a specific person.

    Finally I sent him a package with the money order, some rare comics and a piece of original art by him, all together with a letter where I repeated what we had agreed on. I think I also included some Swedish stuff as a gift and specified what was his and what was to be sent back signed with the commission.

    Then silence. I tried a few polite emails and letters, finally just asking him to return my things. Nothing happened. On the mail list others (many others) told the same story. Spencer Beck managed to get hold of him once and got a pile of excuses including both computer problems and family emergencies. Then even that line of communication closed.

    I know some people have reported Mr. Nichols for fraud. Myself I considered this long, but decided against it. Maybe I'm too naive, but I just can't believe he purposefully did this. At the same time I can't forgive myself for sending out a piece of art. Losing money is one thing, but loosing a unique object like that is really bad. I still blame and kick myself for that.


    From Walt Parrish

    I too have had dealings with Art Nichols. I still hold out hope that he will make good on his commitment, but it dwindles month by month.

    I also commissioned a drawing from Art in May 2000 (I asked for "Magnus, Robot Fighter" on a cliff -- for my collection, seen at http://www.thecliffguy.com). He agreed to $50 (which I promptly sent) and he was responsive and agreeable for a few weeks, but I have received nothing to this day. I've tried calling him (leaving nice, non-upset messages on his machine), networking with ex-colleagues of his, all to no avail.

    I'd really love a drawing by Art -- he's a heck of a talent -- but if I can't have that, I could use my money back!


    From Frank A. Baldevarona

    Like many of the other collector's, I belong to the ComicArt-L list. I can't remember when and from whom, but we were informed that Art Nichols was accepting commissions. The strange thing was that he wanted payments in blank money orders. But since he was vouched for by his agent, we figured it to be a reasonable risk.

    For a couple of weeks, communication between he (Art) and I were good, we talked about what I wanted in my commission, which by the way was Galactus. He gave a time-table of when it would be done.

    After that, he just sort of disappeared. I sent him email several times and almost a year later, sent a letter to him demanding my money back with a threat to involve the Dallas and San Jose police. I did, in fact exchange email messages with an investigator with the San Jose police and wrote to the police department in Dallas.

    To this date, there has no resolution to the matter.
A little over a week ago Enrico placed a post on Moonstone’s message board, calling Art Nichols out at: http://pub1.bravenet.com/forum/fetch.php?id=10013086&usernum=12421193

But once again, Art has not responded. Know what I say? I say stop being a bitch, Art. You should do the work AND pay these people back.

For a more complete history of this story, go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/comicart-l/. Join the group, and search the message archives for "Art Nichols".

Thanks to Blair Marnell for uncovering this story.

This Has A "Show Them the Money" Factor Of Ten Out Of Ten


The Bristol Incident

Quick story from a former ATR writer who attended the annual British comic festival in Britain. I’ve been asked not to name names for this thing, but hell, it’s still slightly amusing.

While drinking with Comic Creator 1, former ATR guy is suddenly knocked out of the way by Comic Creator 2, who has just burst past him. CC2 grabs CC1’s pint out of his hands and throws down two huge gulps. "Thanks, CC1" he says, "I needed that. I ran into Comic Creator 3 in the carpark and it's been so long since I've had a joint. It really dries your mouth, doesn't it?"

This Has A “Beer is the Elixir of Life” Factor Of Nine Out Of Ten


We’re All Gonna Burn In Hell

I was tooling around the web yesterday and I found these two new Hellboy movie pics at http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/hellboy/hellsite/.



All I can say is that when this film is about to be released, I think the Army of God or some freakin’ religious dicks are gonna come out of the woodwork and try to tell the American people that Hellboy is Satan. And frankly, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be great.

This Has A “Silly Nun, Satan Doesn’t Trim His Horns” Value Of Ten Out Of Ten


Help Save Fantagraphics

And finally, for those that don’t know, Fantagraphics -- publisher of fine comic books -- is in financial trouble. A letter was released earlier this week, urging people to buy stuff and save the company from doom. I posted the release in the news already, but I felt like I should reprint it here. So, here it is:
    Buy Books! Keep Us Alive!

    To Comics Lovers Throughout the World:

    Fantagraphics Books has just celebrated its 27th year publishing many of the finest cartoonists from all over the world as well as our flagship publication, the magazine people love to hate, The Comics Journal. We are proud of our long-term commitment to comics as an art form and our dogged determination to push excellence down everybody’s throats. This is all very well and good but it doesn’t mean much in the face of brute economics; and it’s the wall of brute economics that we’ve just hit, hard.

    Due to two major financial obstacles over the last two years, we’re hard against it.

    Our former and now bankrupt book trade distributor went out of business owing us over $70,000; which we will never see. (To add insult to injury, we learned that the owner is selling copies of our books that he should’ve returned on e-bay!) This unexpected shortfall necessitated taking out a couple loans which have now come due. In late 2001, our line was picked up by the W.W. NORTON COMPANY, who took over our bookstore distribution, and has done a magnificent job of providing us unprecedented access to the bookstore market. Inexperience with the book trade resulted in our erring on the side of overprinting our books too heavily throughout 2002, so that our anticipated profit is in fact sitting in our warehouse in the form of books. Loans must be paid in cash, not books. The only way to get out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves into is to sell those books. Which is where, we hope, you come in.

    Over the last few weeks, we’ve worked to fix our in-house problems (which included, most painfully, laying off several fine and long-term employees). We have put in place a system of checks and balances by which we will watch our inventory growth scrupulously. But, we have a debt to pay down and wolves at the door. It’s so severe that this month we envisaged shutting down our active publishing, seeking outside investors, or similarly odious measures. (Fantagraphics continues to be owned 100% by Messrs. Gary Groth and Kim Thompson. We’d like it to remain that way.)

    If you’ve respected what Fantagraphics stands for and what we’ve done for the medium, if you’ve enjoyed our books, and if you want to insure that this proud tradition continues into this new and ominous century, we’re asking you to help us now in our especial hour of need by buying some books. Put simply, we need to raise about $80,000 above our usual sales over the next month, and the only way to do that is to convert books into cash.

    We’ve spent the last quarter century trying hard to produce the best comics the world has ever seen. You’ve rewarded us over the years with your loyal patronage, your moral support, your praise, your intelligence and honest feedback, all of which are more than we could ever have hoped for. We know we have tens of thousands of loyal readers: if even a fraction of you come forward and order two or three books that you’ve been meaning to buy, we’ll be over this hump. We’ve published some some of the best books ever over the last year; Gene Deitch’s (yes, that Gene Deitch!) THE CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE; B. KRIGSTEIN, Greg Sadowski’s definitive biography of the pioneering artist from the '50s; the magnificent FRANK collection; and the third volume of the extraordinary KRAZY KAT series. Our publishing plans for 2003 include a huge coffee table book by Will Elder (WILL ELDER: MAD PLAYBOY OF ART); KRIGSTEIN COMICS, a 240 page follow-up collection of Krigstein’s best comics from the ‘50s, and new collections and graphic novels by Gilbert Hernandez, Jason, Dave Cooper, Robert Crumb, A.B. Frost, Bill Griffith, Gary Panter...

    We already sell books by mail, so, as clichéd as it sounds, we really do have operators standing by. You can view out catalogue online. You can order by calling our 800 number or on-line at our web site (all ordering information below.)

    If this was a standard pitch, we’d offer you some extra incentive; a discount or free books or knicknacks or whatnot. But, it’s not. We’re asking those of you who believe we’ve contributed something worthwhile and meaningful to help us continue to do so, that’s all. We need the full retail value of our books. But we can offer something that won’t cost us any money: anyone (individually or collectively) who buys $500 worth of books from us will get a personal phone call from Gary Groth thanking you for saving Fantagraphics’ ass. Think how much fun this could be at a party!

    Secure Internet Orders: http://www.fantagraphics.com

    phone: 206-524-6165 or 800-657-1100
    via FAX: 206-524-2104
    via mail: Fantagraphics Books, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115
I hear shipping can be expensive, especially if you’re overseas, but Fanta makes some great books and heck, they are in trouble. If you’ve never purchased anything from this publisher let me suggest Usagi Yojimbo. I flew through the first five trades and just ordered two more. I can’t get enough. Fanta also has books from other publishers, so you should be able to find something you’ll like.


Oh, I’ll be gone for two weeks. Don’t cry. Someone will fill in for me.

Out,
Markisan

PS If anyone has any rumors to share please send them to me immediately. Just click on my name at the top of the page and you’re halfway there. If you don’t want your name revealed then just give me an alias or let me know that you don’t want to be mentioned in any way. Thanks to everyone who has been sending stuff in. It’s appreciated.


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