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Lawsuit over Smallville profits heads to jury trial

A jury will decide whether Warner Bros. Television owes the creators of Smallville as much as $100 million in allegedly lost profits for the long-running drama.

Series creators and executive producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough and series producers Tollin/Robbins Productions sued WBTV in 2010, accusing the company of licensing Smallville to its co-owned WB and CW networks “for unreasonably low” fees, thereby cutting the plaintiffs out of tens of millions of dollars. They amended their claims of breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing earlier this year to include the allegation that WBTV’s sister company DC Comics was brought into the profit pool without the contractually required approval, greatly reducing the plaintiffs’ profit participation.

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Mix 2012 symposium boasts Chris Ware, In Search of Steve Ditko

Higher education’s appreciation and subsequent analysis and teaching of comics continues to grow, and one more example is happening next month in Ohio with a comics symposium.

The Columbus College of Art & Design has announced the schedule for its first-ever comics symposium, Mix 2012. The event is highlighted by a keynote event with Chris Ware, as well as a rare screening, two exhibitions ,and a comics-making marathon for CCAD students.

While the symposium is primarily held Oct. 3-6, there are several events occurring around it, such as a Maus roundtable discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and a three-week gallery exhibit starting Sept. 21 that showcases original artwork from Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

Thursday night features a screening of the acclaimed BBC Four documentary by Jonathan Ross, In Search of Steve Ditko, which has rarely been shown in the United States (outside of YouTube, that is). There’s also an open house at Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, where the public will be able to dive into the largest and most comprehensive academic research facility of printed cartoon and comics art. How many opportunities have you had to examine original art from Jeff Smith’s Bone, Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, the work of P. Craig Russell, and more?

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Brian Wood tamps down rumor about conclusion of his X-Men run

X-Men #37

Clarifying a shipping update for Marvel’s X-Men that’s been interpreted to mean his run was cut short, Brian Wood assures that his stint on the series was always meant to end with October’s Issue 37.

In an email sent last week by Diamond Comic Distributors, retailers were notified that X-Men #38, “solicited as being written by Brian Wood and illustrated by David Lopez, has a new creative team: writer Seth Peck and artist Paul Azaceta,” sparking online speculation about a sudden change by the publisher.

But over the weekend, Wood took to his Tumblr for “rumor control,” writing, “I was, way back, asked to write 8 issues of X-Men, and I have, concluding with #37. My name appeared in the solicitation for #38, but that was a typo. I have not written #38, as that blog post suggests. Seth [Peck] and (the amazing) Paul Azaceta are taking over the title. So it’s all according to plan, I wasn’t taken off the book or anything weird like that. I’m sure it won’t be the last 616 X-Men I write. It also won’t be the last time I work with David Lopez.”

Wood, who’s best known for his creator-owned work on such titles as Demo, DMZ, Northlanders and The Massive, returned to Marvel in January with the miniseries Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega before taking the reins of X-Men and Ultimate Comics X-Men in June. He’ll continue as the writer of the latter title.

Top Cow kicks off search for unpublished writer and artist

Here’s one that might have got missed over the holiday weekend: Top Cow Productions has announced a talent hunt for two previously unpublished writers and artists. You can see a rundown of the rules below, or on the publisher’s website. They’re very stringent, understandably enough in the current culture of litigation. Still, this is a high-profile gig, so it’d be worth doing the research to pull it off. The recent success of the Cyber Force Kickstarter campaign shows Top Cow is  publisher with both a supportive fanbase and a helluva knack with a publicity campaign.

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DC Comics, Disney and Sanrio sue party company over costumes

From the Party Animals website

DC Comics, Disney and Sanrio have sued a California birthday party entertainment company for copyright and trademark infringement, alleging that it’s using counterfeit costumes of such well-known characters as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Superman, Wonder Woman and Hello Kitty.

Law 360 reports that the lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles, accuses Party Animals and owner Jason Lancaster of using and renting costumes resembling the companies’ characters and logos for birthday and corporate parties, in violation of copyright and trademark laws.

“[Party Animals] is actively selling, offering for sale, renting, distributing or manufacturing unlicensed and counterfeit costumes, which incorporate unauthorized likenesses of the animated or live action characters or other logos owned by plaintiffs,” the complaint said. “[The] defendants have never been authorized by the plaintiffs to distribute the plaintiffs’ copyrighted properties.”

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Comics A.M. | Why collectors’ market is booming; Homestuck Kickstarter

Action Comics #1

Comics | Auction prices for comics and original comics art have soared over the past few years, ever since a copy of Action Comics #1 broke the $1-million mark in 2010. Barry Sandoval of Heritage Auctions (admittedly, not a disinterested party) and Michael Zapcic of the comics shop Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash discuss why that happened—and why prices are likely to stay high. [Underwire]

Crowdfunding | Homestuck is a phenomenon. Kickstarter is a phenomenon. Put them together and you get … a Kickstarter to fund a Homestuck game that raises $275,000 in a matter of hours. [Kotaku]

Creators | Brian Michael Bendis looks back on his eight-year run on Marvel’s Avengers franchise. []

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Dredd comic prequel delves into the world of Ma-Ma

With a little more than two weeks before director Pete Travis’ Dredd 3D arrives in theaters, Lionsgate and 2000AD have released a 10-page prequel comic that delves into the backstory of Ma-Ma (played in the film by Lena Headey), the drug lord responsible for the Slo-Mo epidemic plaguing Mega-City One.

Titled “Top of the World, Ma-Ma,” the comic is written by 2000AD editor Matt Smith, with art by Henry Flint, colors by Chris Blythe, letters by Simon Bowland and a cover by Greg Staples.

Dredd 3D opens Sept. 21.

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ComiXology to bring creators into the picture

Creators: Don't let this be you!

Two bits of news about comiXology crossed the radar this morning. The first is that the company is launching a push this weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con to get creators to fill its creator database with photos and information (the creators page on the comiXology website is now bare). Because the digital distributor features the work of more than 6,000 writers and artists, this is quite a task, so comiXology is asking creators to line up in alphabetical order — the company will focus on those whose names start with the letter “A” the first week and keep going for 26 weeks.

Anyone who’s interested should contact comiXology via Twitter to get the green light and instructions for the next step. It’s an interesting shift in focus, as comiXology has always been all about the comics — you can search for works by a given creator, but there isn’t much info beyond that. The displays all focus on individual comics titles and story arcs. There has been a lot of conversation lately about creators’ rights and giving credit, and as creators move from one publisher to another — or to creator-owned works — it makes sense to give readers a way to connect with them as well as all their works.

And, because sometimes the way you get the news is the news, I’ll note that the press release on this came from Ivan Salazar, whose signature indicates he’s now “PR & Events Coordinator” for comiXology. Salazar and Chip Mosher, comiXology’s vice president of marketing, PR and business development, were colleagues at BOOM! Studios until Mosher left for comiXology and Salazar moved on to become PR and marketing manager at Studio 407. ComiXology seems to be on a hiring spree, so perhaps more initiatives are in the offing.

The Middle Ground #119 | Open the box

One of the best things about comics — about any media, really, but for some reason it always feels more special when it happens to me with a comic — is when you’re reading something that you already had high expectations of, and end up bowled over by how easily those expectations were beaten.

I remember being so stupidly nervous about Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, for example, convinced that my anticipation of the final chapter and love for everything that had come before was somehow dooming the book to an entirely unearned doom, and the feeling after finishing it that it had, somehow, been better than I’d expected. Or the fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges, with Huizenga playing with the iconography of calendars and time in a way I couldn’t have imagined in the middle of a story about insomnia that felt bold and inventive and completely unexpected. There’s something about that realization that, hey, this thing called comics can hit you on all these different levels at once and leave you dazed and amazed as a result.

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Anyone up for a game of ‘Edgy Comics Bingo’?

Cathy Leamy's "Edgy Comics Bingo"

Just in time for New Comics Day, Cathy Leamy has posted her “Edgy Comics Bingo” card, which is part game, part commentary and all … fun for the entire family? Okay, maybe not that last part.

While many of the tropes depicted on the card are all too familiar — “Whores Who Need Saving,” “Thinly Veiled Real People” and “Whatever Fetish Was On Boing Boing Last Month” leap out — I’ve concluded I may be reading the wrong (or is that right?) comics. For instance, I can’t recall any that included “Things Going Up Butts” or “Gay Overcompensating.” That said, I’ve seen enough instances of “Knifemurder” — which presumably includes swords and/or tridents through the back — and “‘splodemurder” in comics to last a couple of lifetimes.

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Food or Comics | Ziti or Zeroes

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Aya: Life in Yop City

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, I’d buy Boys #70 (only two issues until the big finale) and Classic Popeye #2, IDW Publishing’s ongoing series of reprints devoted to Bud Sagendorf comics from the 1940s, as the first issue was much more fun than I expected it to be.

If I had $30, I’d put those comics back, but would be stuck between a couple of books. The first would be Aya: Life in Yop City, which collects the three previous Aya books by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie in one volume. These are great, funny comics, full of life and observation regarding a culture — in this case African culture — most Westerners know nothing about.

There’s also A Chinese Life, a massive doorstop of a memoir by Chinese artist Li Kunwu (with help from writer Philippe Otie) chronicling his life and times. Kunwu lives through some of modern China’s most tumultuous periods, including the Cultural Revolution, and hopefully his book will, like Aya, humanize a time and culture that for many is just a few lines in their history book.

Finally, there’s Message to Adolph, Vol. 1, one of Tezuka’s final works, set during World War II, about three people named Adolph, one a Jew, the other a German boy living in Japan, and the third the fuhrer himself. Originally published by Viz about two decades ago, Vertical has taken it upon themselves to put out a newly translated version which is great news for those that missed this great manga the first time around.

Is there a greater splurge purchase this week that Dal Tokyo, the collected version of Gary Panter’s off-kilter comic strip? I plugged this book last week, but it deserves another one. I’ve been waiting for this book for awhile.

For the scholarly comics type, the splurge of the week might be Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, a look at the creator of Barnaby and Harold and the Purple Crayon and his wife, a children’s author with whom he frequently collaborated.

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BBC’s hit Sherlock getting a manga adaptation

Tumblr is littered with manga-influenced fan comics chronicling the continued — and frequently sex- and cuddle-filled — adventures of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Martin Freeman’s Watson from the hit BBC television series Sherlock. But Anime News Network reports that Kadokawa’s Young Ace magazine is announcing an honest-to-goodness manga adaptation of the crime drama, beginning Oct. 4 with “A Study in Pink.” Presumably it’s all licensed and approved, but then again, who knows.

Young Ace is a seinen (young men’s) magazine that’s serialized such manga as The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Legal Drug, so we won’t be seeing any Holmes/Watson sexcapades; you’ll have to rely on Tumblr for that.

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Renae De Liz is making a Peter Pan comic

I debated waiting until the Kickstarter launch to post about this, but it’s never too early to start getting excited about something this cool. Renae De Liz (The Last Unicorn, Womanthology) and her husband Ray Dillon (Servant of the Bones, The Last Unicorn) are adapting J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for comics. Judging from the teases on the project’s blog (and previous experience with De Liz’s work), it’s going to be amazing.

You can follow their progress either on the project’s blog or on Twitter, but De Liz also gives some additional details on her own blog where she talks about her inspiration for the book, publishing plans, and the possibility of donating some proceeds to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the spiritual copyright holder of Peter Pan. It’s still early in the creation process, but thanks to cool art like the animated cover below, this will be fun to watch as it develops. From Womanthology, De Liz has some experience using Kickstarter in a successful way, so once that campaign launches in about a month, expect to hear a lot more about this.

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Note to Nick Fury: The Russians have a Helicarrier

I don’t know all the details because I don’t read Russian, but the video speaks for itself. Remote-control, working Helicarriers transcend the language barrier. In the comments, the creator mentions that the model’s battery life is six to seven minutes, but I wouldn’t recommend reading too far down. It’s amazing how people can find negative things to say about something as completely awesome as this.

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Quote of the Day | Jimmy Gownley on how to end a series

“I think that when you are doing a long series like this, the most important thing you need to do at the end is confirm the premise. That’s why, even though the Seinfeld finale was perceived as a flop at the time, it never hurt the series in syndication. It actually works, because it confirms and affirms the world you just spent so much time in. Everyone says they love the Newhart finale, but they really don’t. It’s clever and cute for a one-off joke, but you notice that Newhart is rarely seen in syndication. Why would it be? Who would watch any of those episodes again? It was all just a dream. It’s actually the worst possible thing you could do to your audience. So my goal was to create a finale that was implied at the beginning. I think it works really well, and I love the point where we leave the characters.”

Jimmy Gownley on winding up his eight-volume series Amelia Rules

In the first volume of the series, Amelia has just left New York for a small town, where she and her mother will live with her Aunt Tanner following her parents’ divorce. Although Amelia adjusted to her new situations, these stories have never been static; unlike many comics characters, Amelia continued to grow and change as new challenges came up. So it’s appropriate that Gownley has created an actual finale to the series, rather than just stopping at the end of a volume. It does make me wonder how many creators have the ending of their story in mind as they write the first chapter—or whether the ending becomes obvious to them after the story has been going on for a little while.

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