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Bluewater breaks with Diamond, partners with Comic Flea Market

Bluewater Productions, the publisher largely known for its biographical comics about political and showbiz personalities, has announced a complete break with Diamond Comic Distributors. Bluewater comics will now be distributed, and printed, by Comic Flea Market.

Bluewater had already announced a distribution partnership with CFM for some of its titles, so the news piece here is that the publisher is making a complete break with Diamond. Bluewater comics are also available digitally through the usual channels.

Give Bluewater President Darren G. Davis credit for putting a bold front on it and saying in the press release that Diamond “abruptly” canceled several Bluewater comics because they didn’t make their sales benchmarks. In an interview with MTV Geek in March, Davis presented Bluewater’s problems with Diamond as a clash of business models.

“It’s really difficult, because according to these benchmarks your comics have to make a certain amount of money, or they won’t issue you a purchase order,” he said. “I get it  —  they’re a bigger company. And if we have a book that only sold 500 copies, there’s no reason why they should distribute it. But it just doesn’t help me as a publisher. But I don’t condemn them for it.”

Davis emphasized today that this move does not mean Bluewater is abandoning the direct market; on the contrary, he pledged to continue to offer Bluewater comics to retailers at about the same discount they were receiving from Diamond.

“My experience has shown me that if your name is not DC or Marvel, it is very difficult to get support from Diamond,” Davis said in the press release. “As an independent producer, I felt it was time to take our titles to the next level.”

Comic Book Resources reached out to Diamond and Davis for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Comics A.M. | The Oatmeal vs. FunnyJunk, and problems cartoonists face

Art by Matthew Inman

Legal | Danny Bradbury takes a look at the financial and copyright aspects of online comics in an insightful article spurred by the recent dust-up between The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk. Among other things, he parses out how The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman makes $500,000 a year from his comic, why Inman and other creators object to their work being published elsewhere without attribution (and why they sometimes don’t care), the legal protections they can use (and how they sometimes fail), and how sites like Pinterest avoid the problem. There’s also an explanation of why FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon is suing Inman et al. on his own behalf, rather than FunnyJunk’s: “Carreon has now effectively abandoned the threat of a FunnyJunk lawsuit, stating that he was misinformed by his client. His letter claimed that all the comics had been removed from FunnyJunk, but Inman pointed out dozens that were still there.” [The Guardian]

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Bluewater, Soldier of Fortune team for ‘guts and grit’ comic

Soldier of Fortune

Bluewater Productions has teamed up with Soldier of Fortune Magazine for a new comic series called Soldier of Fortune Presents: Stealth. And the comics publisher sent out a testosterone-dripping press release today on this new partnership, the kind with quotes like this: “Finally a real adventure graphic novel for real men,” said Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown, USAR (Ret.), publisher of Soldier of Fortune Magazine.

And this one, from Marc Shapiro, the book’s writer and an Army veteran: “I’m writing Soldiers Of Fortune with the idea of creating the ultimate war comic. Lots of action, lots of humor, lots of character and more firepower than you can shake a bazooka at. Big guns. Big attitude. Guts and grit.”

Seriously, if the above quotes and image don’t make you want to eat some red meat, belch and fire off a few rounds, then check your manly man card at the door.

The action-adventure series by Shapiro and artist Steven Black centers around a fictional secret special ops team hired by the government to do the jobs that the military is incapable of doing for either practical or political reasons. Several of Soldier of Fortune’s advertisers will have product placement in the comic.

“If a character is using a grenade launcher, firearm or any piece of paramilitary hardware, it will be an accurate depiction of a current brand,” said Bluewater president Darren Davis. “This is the first time we have taken this approach. As long as it fits the narrative, readers will see a little bit of realism. There is so much excitement here on this project that our licensing agent is already looking to make this a TV series and toys based of the character designs that Ramon Salas did for this project!”

The first issue comes out in June.

Comics A.M. | Court sides with Zohan in comic writer’s lawsuit

Jayms Blonde

Legal | The Second Circuit Court of Appeals backed the 2010 decision by a federal judge to dismiss a comic writer’s claims that Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Columbia Pictures and parent company Sony Picture stole his idea for a hairdresser-turned-hero and transformed it into the movie You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Robert Cabell filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit in February 2009 accusing the moviemakers of ripping off his comic The Hair-Raising Adventures of Jayms Blonde, about a Navy SEAL-turned-hairdresser who fights crime armed with a blow dryer. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Creators | The Hero Initiative reports that comics creator Josh Medors, who has a rare form of cancer, has been released from the hospital after being treated for a lung infection. [Hero Initiative]

Creators | Dave McKean discusses his most recent work, the erotic graphic novel Celluloid. [Suicide Girls]

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Bluewater to launch superhero line

Bluewater Comics announced yesterday that they are getting into the superhero game with a shared-universe featuring characters based on the Greek gods who apparently have been transported to modern times.

OK, it’s been done before, but just because Zane Gray wrote westerns doesn’t mean nobody else can write westerns. The problem, as I see it, is that superheroes that are not from Marvel and DC are a tough sell. Let’s take BOOM! Studios as a comparison, as both BOOM! and Bluewater are small indy publishers. BOOM! has well known writers and artists, and it promotes the hell out of its comics to retailers and the comics press. Its superhero comics sell between 10,000 copies (Mark Waid’s Irredeemable and Incorruptible) and 7,000 copies (the Stan Lee titles) a month—respectable for a small press, but hardly DC/Marvel numbers. Bluewater has unknown writers and artists, and while it promotes the hell out of its comics, a lot of the press they get is bad. So it looks like this line has a lot of obstacles to overcome. (Not that bad reviews don’t move comics—I’m sure there are people who bought the Justin Bieber bio-comic because it’s cheaper than LSD.)

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Digital comics: What’s hot on the small screen

The digital comics scene continues to be a bit of a mishmash.

Every week, I get an e-mail from comiXology listing all of its new issues for the week, but the order seems to be somewhere between alphabetical and random. Viz Media also does a nice job of letting me know what’s new on its app. Graphicly sends a chatty e-mail featuring a couple of titles, but the company doesn’t put them front and center in its app, so I have to go looking for them (and it’s not the most intuitive interface). And while I know the iVerse folks have been busy, they don’t update their blog or (as far as I can tell) send out e-mails. This is all my way of saying that while the following may seem heavy on comiXology content, that’s not because I’m biased — it’s because comiXology has more titles and is doing a better job of promoting them.

That said, I thought it would be helpful to sift through this week’s offerings and pull out some good weekend reading.

A couple of classic series are debuting on comiXology this week. Having attended both the Vertigo panel and the Bill Willingham spotlight panel at C2E2, I was interested in seeing more of Fables, so it’s a happy coincidence that Jack of Fables #1 is up there for free. It’s just as clever as the main series, and Tony Akins’ supple penciling is a treat for the eyes. (One of the things I enjoy about Fables is that there is plenty of eye candy for the ladies as well as the guys.) Sometimes the free samples are kind of mingy, but not here: This is the whole first issue of Jack of Fables, and if that whets your appetite, Issue 2 is up there for $1.99.

Also new this week, although, sadly, not free, is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin. The first six issues, comprising two complete story arcs, are up this week.

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Harryhausen’s Sinbad: Movies to comics to movies again [UPDATED]

Bluewater sent out a press release last week to announce that Morningside Entertainment has optioned the film rights to Bluewater’s Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic from 2007. There are several interesting things about that.

According to the press release, Morningside has optioned the comic in order to adapt it into a feature film for 2012. Not a reboot, the movie is intended to be an extension of the Sinbad films that started with 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and continued into the ‘70s with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

The release went on to quote Executive Producer Barry Schneer as saying that Rogue of Mars would be the first film in a new trilogy. “I’m thrilled to continue the amazing legacy my uncle, Charles Schneer began with 7th Voyage and to bring to the screen the Sinbad movie that he and Ray Harryhausen never got to make.”

Since Bluewater published Sinbad: Rogue of Mars as part of its Ray Harryhausen Presents line of comics, I started wondering how this fit together and who owned the rights to what. I assumed that Morningside already owned at least a portion of the rights to the Sinbad films. Since Rogue of Mars was based on those movies, why would Morningside need to option the story from a comic book company that had bought the license from them in the first place? What exactly was Morningside optioning? And how does Ray Harryhausen himself fit into all of this?

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Bluewater to publish The Mis-Adventures Of Adam West

The Mis-Adventures Of Adam West

The Mis-Adventures Of Adam West

Although it’s been a few decades since Adam West played the title role in the 1960s TV series Batman, the actor is now moving from being a comic character to a comic creator. MTV announced today that The Mis-Adventures Of Adam West will debut in Spring 2011 from Bluewater Comics as an ongoing series co-written by West, Walter Fernandez Jr. and Arastao Maree.

Per the post on MTV’s Splash Page blog, the comic will feature “a dimension-hopping adventure featuring encounters both fictional and within [West’s] real-life history.”

“That’s what I wanted: something that was more Walter Mitty or ‘Pink Panther,’ with adventure the kids will love, and action,” he told reporter Rick Marshall. “For example, an adventure might be based on him meeting Batman and how he feels about it. . . He might even be meeting himself as Mayor West on ‘Family Guy,’ and laughing at it or along with it. There are so many ways to go, as you know — especially with the audience today. I have this incredibly wonderful fanbase out there, and I know they’ll love this.”

It will be interesting to see how they pull off a meeting with Batman that doesn’t have the lawyers at Warner Bros. calling a foul. The book will feature interior art by Lipe, who drew another famous 1960s TV star in William Shatner Presents: TekWar, with covers by Matt Bellisle.

Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber get all righteous with Bluewater

Bluewater Productions publishes comic book biographies of popular figures, from Hilary Clinton to Stephenie Meyer, and many of them (such as the Meyer comic) are unauthorized. Now Rich Johnston reports that attorney Kenneth Feinswog has sent the company cease-and-desist notices on behalf of clients who apparently don’t appreciate getting the Bluewater treatment: Lady Gaga, the subject of a recently published comic, and Justin Bieber, whose bio-comic is due in October. Both comics are unauthorized biographies.

Feinswog’s claim seems to be that the comics are trademark infringements and violate the performers’ intellectual property and likeness rights.

Bluewater Publisher Darren G. Davis wouldn’t talk to Johnston, but he did confirm that he had received the cease-and-desist orders and offered a response to MTV’s Splash Page. His defense is that the works are bona fide biographies and are therefore protected under the First Amendment:

“These are not-poster books and as it was explained to the licensing lawyer, Kenneth Feinswog, it tells the story of [Bieber’s] life in 22 pages,” he continued. “We offered to send him a copy of the book before it went to print. We have been offered deals with poster books, sticker books and we had to turn them down because we know we do not have the rights to that. But doing an unauthorized biography we are in full within our rights.”

Davis also offered the theory that the reason for the action is that Bluewater’s comic is competition for Bieber’s memoir Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever, which is due out this fall, as are several other books about the 16-year-old singer.

There is some precedent for this, but not in Feinswog’s favor. In the late 1990s, Revolutionary Comics produced Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics, unauthorized biographies of rock musicians. Feinswog sued on behalf of New Kids on the Block and Motley Crue, claiming trademark infringement, but the court ruled in favor of the comics. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Bluewater recently acquired the rights to the Revolutionary line.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International

Conventions | A limited number of four-day memberships for Comic-Con International will go on sale at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST today as part of hotel-stay packages. [Comic-Con]

Conventions | Michael Cieply looks at Comic-Con as a destination for filmmakers to promote their next big projects, and convention attendees as “consummate insiders” who don’t always pick the box-office winners. [The New York Times]

Legal | As a Brussels court decides whether Tintin in the Congo should be banned in Belgium, Pallavi Aiyar provides some background on the book’s history and on the civil case. [Business Standard]

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Sportsmen take aim at Bluewater’s DeGeneres comic

Ellen DeGeneres, animal lover

Ellen DeGeneres, animal lover

When last we heard about Bluewater Productions, the publisher was getting bad press for making bad comics and not paying creators. But now it gets to play the Heroic Defenders of a Noble Cause by issuing this press release detailing how the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance has launched a wave of protests against its biography of Ellen DeGeneres, taking aim at her “lifestyle,” which includes being gay and donating a third of the profits from her comic to the U.S. Humane Society.

The gay-bashing seems to have come from individuals, rather than the Sportsmen’s Alliance, however; the actual press release on the group’s site only bashes the U.S. Humane Society on the grounds that it is a lobbying organization and doesn’t actually help lost puppies. And the letter the USSA sent to Bluewater asks the publisher to cut off its relationship with the Humane Society, not to withdraw the comic, as has been reported elsewhere. While it wouldn’t be surprising, given the state of the culture wars, that Bluewater did get some nasty hate mail, and some of it may have come from USSA members, the organization itself seems to be more preoccupied with preserving its right to kill animals than telling people how to live.

Anyway, given Bluewater’s track record (see the link above about not paying creators), I seriously doubt the U.S. Humane Society is going to be building its next headquarters with the proceeds from this comic.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes



Retailing | The annual meeting of ComicsPRO, the direct-market trade organization, begins today in Memphis, Tennessee, with DC Comics-focused programming — we’ll likely see some announcements this afternoon — and continues through Saturday. Matt Price gauges the general mood among attendees concerning the economy, digital comics and the increasing reliance by publishers on “classified” solicitations whose details aren’t revealed until just before the final-order cutoff. [Nerdage]

Publishing | French publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés, which in recent years has had deals with DC Comics and Devil’s Due Publishing, plans to “formally reestablish itself” as a U.S. comic-book publisher — this time without a partner. The venture, called Humanoids Inc.,  is overseen by Publisher Fabrice Giger, Director Alex Donoghue, Editor-in-Chief Bob Silva and Senior Art Director Jerry Frissen. The first titles will be released in June. [Humanoids]

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Quote of the Day

“[Bluewater Productions] has also informed MTV News that a portion of the proceeds from the comic will be donated to The Humane Society in DeGeneres’ name.”

– from a Splash Page preview of Freedom Force: Ellen DeGeneres, made somewhat amusing by recent online criticism of the publisher’s work-for-hire agreements in which creators get paid when, and if, a comic turns a profit

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Shi Long Pang

Shi Long Pang

Awards | The Xeric Foundation, the nonprofit corporation established in 1992 by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, has announced the recipients of the fall/winter grants: Sarah Becan, The Complete and Original Ouija Interviews; Sixta C., Soldiers of God; Ben Costa, Shi Long Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk; Blaise Larmee, Young Lions; Lane Milburn, Death Trap; Stefan Salinas, Within the Rat; and Nathan Schreiber, Power Out.

The Xeric grants assist creators with the costs of self-publishing. [The Xeric Foundation]

Retailing | Ron Marshall has resigned after just a year as chief executive of the financially troubled Borders Group. Michael J. Edwards, who joined the book chain in September as chief merchandising officer, has been appointed as interim chief executive. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes



Legal | Sentencing has been delayed until Feb. 11 for Christopher Handley, the 39-year-old man who in May pleaded guilty to one count each of possession of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and of mailing obscene matter. Sentencing originally was scheduled for Monday, but was moved at the request of the defense attorney.

The Handley case began in May 2006, when customs agents reportedly intercepted a mail package from Japan addressed to Handley containing what they deemed obscene material, “including books containing visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, specifically Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals.” Agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service obtained a warrant to search Handley’s Glenwood, Iowa, home, where they seized “additional obscene drawings of the sexual abuse of children.” Handley was indicted in May 2007 under a federal law that prohibits the possession any visual depiction — including cartoons — of “a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that is obscene.”

Handley faces up to 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $500,000 and three years of supervised release. []

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