“When you think of Superman in the 1950s, only a handful of artists come to mind – and Al Plastino’s one of them. Along with the likes of Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, Plastino brought a level of humanity to Superman that had never been seen before. This amazing, super-human being now had a smile like you or me. He brought out the human side of a modern myth. It was nuanced but game changing. We can’t thank him enough for his work at DC, and we’re thinking of all those close to him during this difficult time.”
– DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the work of prolific Superman artist Al Plastino, who passed away at age 91
Prolific artist Al Plastino, who in recent weeks lobbied for the return of his original art for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” has passed away after a battle with prostate cancer, Mark Evanier reports. He was 91.
Born Dec. 15, 1921 in New York City, Plastino began illustrating for Youth Today magazine after he graduated from the High School of Industrial Arts. His first comics credit was on Dynamic Publications’ Dynamic Comics #2, cover-dated December 1941.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Plastino returned to freelance work and learned in 1948 that DC Comics was searching for a new Superman artist; according to his website, the publisher paid $55 a page at the time. For the next two decades, Plastino drew Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superboy, Superman, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and with writer Otto Binder created the Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl.
Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
The York (Pennsylvania) Daily Record reports had been conservatively estimated to fetch $50,000 and $75,000, but the historical significance of the issue (cover-dated February 1964), and the timing of the auction — no coincidence, mind you — helped to drive up the price.
The cover shows the Superman greeting a line of well-wishers, including Lois Lane, Supergirl, Batman and Robin, and, somehow, Clark Kent. In the story, “The Superman Super-Spectacular,” written by Edmund Hamilton and penciled by Swan, Superman must figure out who can portray Clark on a television show honoring the Man of Steel so he can protect his secret identity. He ends up turning to President Kennedy, who dons a mask and make-up to shake Superman’s hand on air.
The issue was already so far into production when Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, that it couldn’t be stopped, and Action Comics #309 was released just days later.
The anonymous seller purchased the original art in the 1970s for $75.
Although the attorney representing the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had vowed they were “prepared to go the distance” in their legal battle with DC Comics, they appear to have reached the end of the road. Of course, that’s been said a few times before.
As Deadline reports, in a 2-1 vote the Ninth Circuit on Thursday tied up the loose ends in what it describes as “the long-running saga regarding the ownership of copyrights in Superman — a story almost as old as the Man of Steel himself,” reaffirming an October 2012 ruling that the Shuster estate is prevented from reclaiming the artist’s stake in the character by a 20-year-old agreement with DC.
“We are obviously very pleased with the court’s decision,” DC’s parent company Warner Bros. said in a statement.
That lower-court decision, which was appealed in May, dealt with a 1992 deal in which the Shuster estate relinquished all claims to Superman in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included paying Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and providing his sister Jean Peavy and brother Frank Shuster with a $25,000 annual pension. In October, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright found that the agreement invalidated a copyright-termination notice filed in 2003 by Shuster’s nephew Mark Peary.
Political cartoonists | Michael Cavna looks into a report by the Cartoonists Rights Network International that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan was executed in July. Raslan was arrested last year by Syrian security forces and, together with a group of journalists, artists and other “intellectuals,” sentenced to life imprisonment. “Somehow, along the way to prison young 28-year-old Akram Raslan (and possibly others) was peeled off, taken out and executed,” the post said. “He is reported to be in a mass grave somewhere near Damascus.” However, CRNI’s Robert Russell told Cavna they have been unable to confirm the report, which came from a “reliable source” close to Raslan’s family. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid file a comprehensive con report on New York Comic Con, including a conversation with ReedPOP Global Vice President Lance Fensterman and a look at the panels and booths. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Conventions | Next week, Salt Lake City will get its first comics convention, Salt Lake Comic Con, which has already sold a reported 23,000 tickets (the event’s website says 20,000). But founder Dan Farr expects attendance to far exceed 40,000, surpassing the 33,000 recorded for New York Comic Con’s inaugural year.[Deseret News, The Salt Lake Tribune]
Conventions | Oni Hartstein, the co-founder of Intervention, talks about why she established the Washington, DC-area convention and why its DIY aspect sets it apart. [Comic Riffs]
Comics strips | Matt Saracini looks at the impact on Australian cartoonists of a cost-cutting decision by media giant News Corp. Australia to replace individual comics pages in their largest newspapers with one national page. In the process, some more expensive locally produced strips were jettisoned in favor for cheaper syndicated ones from overseas, like Garfield and The Phantom. News Corp. owns more than a hundred daily, weekly, biweekly and triweekly newspapers. [SBS.com]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, now living in Kuwait after troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked him and broke both his hands, talks about his decision to portray al-Assad explicitly in his cartoons, rather than sticking to more generic themes like freedom and human rights: “It was a big decision to start to draw Bashar and, yes, I was scared of what might happen, particularly when I was attacked. But I had a responsibility to do what I did. If I am not prepared to take risks I have no right to call myself an artist. If there is no mission or message to my work I might as well be a painter and decorator.” [The Guardian]
Business | Following weeks (if not months) of rumblings, Warner Bros. has made it official: Jeff Robinov, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group president who oversaw the 2009 restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment, will leave the studio following a reorganization that establishes a new leadership team: Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema. It doesn’t appear as if Robinov will be replaced. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, who initially reported Robinov, presumably will answer directly to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; following a shakeup last month in the television and home entertainment division, Nelson reported to both Robinov and Tsujihara. [The Hollywood Reporter]
With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971′s Issue 206 through October 1985′s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978′s Issue 151 through October 1986′s Issue 255.
However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.
A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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If you thought the nearly decade-long legal battle for the rights to the Man of Steel had come to an end last month, think again: On Thursday, the attorney for the Joe Shuster estate asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn an October ruling that the family was prevented from reclaiming the artist’s stake in Superman by a 20-year-old agreement with DC Comics.
At issue is a 1992 deal in which the estate relinquished all claims to the property in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included paying Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and providing his sister Jean Peavy and brother Frank Shuster with a $25,000 annual pension. On Oct. 17, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright found that the agreement invalidated a copyright-termination notice filed in 2003 by Shuster’s nephew Mark Peary. Less than three months later, the 9th Circuit overturned a 2008 decision granting the heirs of Jerry Siegel the writer’s 50-percent share of the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, effectively granting DC full ownership of the character.
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With Thursday’s announcement that Neil Gaiman is returning to the Marvel Universe and bringing with him Angela, the character at the center of his eight-year legal battle with Todd McFarlane, we’re left to wonder about the whereabouts of Marvelman. We also look at the surprise departures at DC Comics, and what the right price is when you name your own.
In late 2011, when DC Comics relaunched its entire superhero line with the New 52, some characters were completely overhauled while others saw no changes at all. But with the debut last month of Justice League of America’s Vibe, we saw writers Geoff Johns and Andrew Krisberg attempt to transform a D-list character — a comic-book punchline — into a new hero and a force to be reckoned with. The artist tapped to help make that happen was Pete Woods.
Beginning his career in the 1990s an intern at Wildstorm, Woods has quietly become a trusted artist in DC’s stable. He’s had extended runs on Robin and Catwoman, but his most celebrated work came when he partnered with writer Paul Cornell to give Lex Luthor a chance ot shine in Action Comics. Woods recently completed a run on Legion Lost, and split time doing brief stints on Aquaman as well as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble while preparing for his current assignment on Vibe. He’s an artist’s artist, constantly refining his style and innovating in his approach. But he’s also an editor’s artists, consistently meeting deadlines.
I reached out to Woods to talk about his current gig, and discovered he’s in the early days of switching up his style. After years of doing much of his work digitally, Woods decided to return to his roots and draw his pages the traditional way. The computer’s still there for the odd task, but this 17-year comics veteran is going for a fresher, more organic style by doing it all by hand.