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.
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]
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.
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]
“[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
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]
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. [ICv2.com]
Bluewater Productions has received international publicity, and more than a little criticism, for its biographies of political and cultural figures ranging from Barack Obama and Sarah Palin to Princess Diana and Stephenie Meyer.
But in April the Washington-based publisher is setting its sights a little higher. No, not Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or even political pundit Rush Limbaugh (although they’re both getting biographies). Go higher.
That’s the one: Jesus Christ. Hey, his first biography still sells pretty well, so why not?
The 32-page Jesus Christ, which launches the publisher’s Faith Series line, “tackles the life of arguably the most famous person in history” and “highlights different aspects of the life of Christ to show that Jesus of Nazareth was more than just a great man in history, but proof of a providential force at work in the universe.”
So it’s safe to presume the comic, written by Don Smith and sporting a cover by Mike S. Miller — interior artist is listed as “TBA” — will have a clear point of view.
Unfortunately, however, it looks as if Faith Series: Jesus Christ will miss Easter by this much.
Bluewater Productions, fresh off a mention on ABC’s The View for its Female Force: Barbara Walters comic, has announced another comic that virtually guarantees more daytime-television exposure: a biography of popular comedian/talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Set for release in March, Female Force: Ellen DeGeneres aims to chronicle “the highest of highs and the lowest of lows” of her nearly 30-year career, during which time she’s been a comedy-club emcee, stand-up comic, television and movie actress and now, most successfully, the host of an award-winning talk show.
“Ellen DeGeneres is taking the world by storm!” the solicitation reads. “Emmys! Endless accolades! It all seems so easy, but Ellen’s journey to get where she is now was not always a smooth one. She’s felt the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But through it all, she managed to stay true to herself and prove that she is a female force to be reckoned with!”
The DeGeneres comic, which joins biographies in the Female Force line devoted to figures like Sarah Palin, Princess Diana, JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, is written by Sandra C. Ruckdeschel and illustrated by Pedro Ponzo. The cover is by Vinnie Tartamella.
• IDW announced over the weekend that it will be collecting the Sunday strips from the Cliff Sterrett classic Polly and Her Pals. The first volume, encapsulating 1925-27, will be in stores this coming August.
The strip began in 1912, but it was in the 20s that Sterrett’s art really took off. Influenced by the modernist art movements, he started incorporating abstract and surrealists motifs into his Sunday pages, and many historians and critics have compared this period favorably to strips like Krazy Kat.
Kitchen Sink attempted to publish these strips back in the 90s before going under but they were only able to get two volumes out the door. Having managed to find those books in a back issue bin years ago and devoured them several times since then, let me say this is fabulous news and I’m really looking forward to seeing this release.
• IDW also posted about their intention to publish a four-issue mini-series about the Weekly World News’ Bat Boy, which I imagine will be quite different from Polly and Her Pals.
• Writer Clifford Meth reports on his blog that Marvel will be publishing The Invincible Gene Colan in February 2010. The 128 page book will feature art work by the master as well as appreciations by folks like Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr.
• Apparently Erik Larsen (and his Savage Dragon) is featured in the latest edition of McSweeney’s newspaper. That’s kinda cool.
Passings | Sheldon “Shel” Dorf, who in 1970 co-founded the event that grew into Comic-Con International, passed away Nov. 3 in San Diego’s Sharp Memorial Hospital from diabetes-related complications. He was 76.
A collector of comics and Dick Tracy memorabilia, Dorf had run Triple Fan Fest in his native Detroit. After he moved to San Diego in early 1970, he met Ken Krueger of Alert Books in Ocean Beach and the two, together with a group of teen-aged fans, organized first Golden State Comic Con, held Aug. 1-3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel. Dorf served as president, or chairman, of the convention until the mid-1980s, stepping away just as the annual event was becoming a national stage for pop culture.
Dorf reportedly struggled with diabetes for years, gradually losing mobility and vision. He entered Sharp Memorial Hospital in 2008 and never left. His brother Michael was with him when he died.
Mark Evanier, of course, has a nice tribute to Dorf peppered with memories dating back to before that first convention. There’s also an extensive Shel Dorf Tribute website, and a memorial banner topping the Comic-Con International homepage. The photo above, of Dorf with Warren Beatty on the set of the 1990 Dick Tracy movie, is borrowed from Alan Light’s Flickr stream. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Bluewater Productions, which has made headlines with its biographical comics series, is bringing Revolutionary Comics’ Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics line back into print in the form of a series of graphic novels. The first one will be out in December.
Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Revolutionary Comics published comic book biographies on everyone from Guns N’ Roses to MC Hammer. Several of these comics resulted in lawsuits against the company, including the ones about New Kids on the Block, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. In the NKOTB case, the judge ruled in Revolutionary’s favor, saying the book was protected by the First Amendment. Other artists supported the line, and Pink Floyd even included the Pink Floyd Experience comics in their official Shine On box CD set.
The NKOTB suit and a threatened suit by Guns N’ Roses brought the comics and the publisher, Todd Loren, a lot of publicity that translated into huge sales for the line. Per the press release from Bluewater, the comics regularly sold in the 50,000 range. I remember their first release, the GNR comic, having multiple printings as a result of all the attention it received.
Loren died in 1992, and in 2005 a documentary about his comics and his unsolved murder — Unauthorized and Proud of It: Todd Loren’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics — was released.
Bluewater’s graphic novels will include:
Bluewater Productions isn’t all about biographies of politicians, dead celebrities, dead politicians and presidential pets.
Just two months ago the publisher announced a comic detailing the life of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. And now comes news the Vancouver, Washington-based company is setting its sights on one of the biggest names in modern fiction: Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
Like the Meyer comic, the Rowling one-shot will be released under the “Female Force” banner, which has been home to biographies of such public figures as Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and Princess Diana.
It’s unclear, though, whether, like Meyer’s title, Rowling’s will be narrated by a fictional character. (In Meyer’s case, it’s “the most famous vampire of them all.” For Rowling, I vote for a house-elf.)
“She is a remarkable and multi-dimensional woman,” writer Adam Gragg said in a press release. “Learning about who she is and how she struggled to become a success was a truly enlightening experience. Twelve publishers turned her down. If it weren’t for the daughter of a British publisher who liked Rowling’s first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone, we might never have met Harry Potter.”
The comic’s cover, as Rowling devotees are well aware, depicts a pivotal moment from the author’s life previously only seen air-brushed on the side of a van: When an aged unicorn-physician tended to Rowling’s dislocated shoulder.
Female Force: J.K. Rowling is set for release in December.
Darren G. Davis, head of Bluewater Productions, said that BlueWater chose not to renew the contracts.
According to Harryhausen’s representative, they have no plans to move the properties to another publisher.
BlueWater began publishing comics based on the works of the filmmaker in 2006, including Jason and the Argonauts, Wrath of the Titans and Sinbad, Rogue of Mars.
Thanks to CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland, who contributed to this post.
Update: In response to the above, Ray Harryhausen’s representative contacted CBR again and said, “In fact, it was Ray Harryhausen, and Ray Harryhausen alone who decided, for reasons I cannot disclose, not to renew the contract. Saying otherwise is simply not true.”
Yen Press isn’t the only publisher getting in on the Twilight phenomenon.
The comic will be released in October under the company’s “Female Force” banner, which has been home to biographies on such public figures as Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and Princess Diana.
“We chose Stephenie Meyer to be one of the subjects for Female Force because her voice is one for a new generation,” Bluewater Publisher Darren G. Davis tells Diamond’s PreviewsWorld. “Now people will find out the history of how she created this series, as well as her life story.”
Billed as “the first-ever illustrated biography of the world-renowned author,” the Meyer comic doesn’t appear to be authorized by the 35-year-old novelist.
Also, I’m not sure what to make of the phrase, “witness her story being told by the most famous vampire of them all.” Is the comic being narrated by Dracula? Edward Cullen?
Meyer released the first novel in her vampire-romance series in 2003. To date, the four-volume Twilight Saga has sold 53 million copies worldwide. A 2008 film adaptation grossed nearly $400 million worldwide. A sequel, New Moon, will open in theaters in November.
It was announced yesterday that Yen Press will adapt Twilight as a series of graphic novels, under the supervision of Meyer.