Publishing | The final print edition of the 75-year-old children’s comic The Dandy arrives Tuesday, featuring a cameo by none other than Paul McCartney. When it was announced the publication would move online, McCartney wrote the editors explaining it was his lifelong dream to appear in the comic; tomorrow he’ll be seen along with Desperate Dan. [Daily Mail, Daily Mail]
Passings | Jeff Millar, the co-creator, with Bill Hinds, of the comic strip Tank McNamara, has died at the age of 70. [Houston Chronicle]
Legal | EC Comics writer and editor Al Feldstein and the estate of Mad editor and artist Harvey Kurtzman have taken steps to reclaim the copyright to their early work under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (the same provision invoked by the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). Feldstein has already reached an agreement with the William M. Gaines Agency, which holds the rights to Tales from the Crypt and other classic EC comics of the 1950s; the deal will bring him a small amount of money and the freedom to use the art any way he wants in his autobiography. Kurtzman’s people are in the early stages of negotiations with Warner Bros./DC Comics, which holds the rights to Mad magazine. [The Comics Journal]
Graphic novels | BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels list for October makes for strange bedfellows, with The Walking Dead Compendium Two at No. 1, Chris Ware’s Building Stories at No. 2, and the third volume of Gene Yang’s Avatar: The Last Airbender at No. 3. It’s an interestingly mixed list, with the usual sprinkling of manga (Sailor Moon, Naruto, Bleach), a volume of Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine compilations, and four more volumes of The Walking Dead. And bringing up the rear, at #20, the perennial Watchmen. [ICv2]
The 9th Circuit heard two appeals Tuesday that could decide the bitter 15-year-old legal battle for control of the Man of Steel.
An attorney for DC Comics asked the three-judge panel to reverse a 2008 decision granting the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel his portion of the copyright to Action Comics #1, arguing the family is reneging on a 2001 agreement that would have ensured the company’s ownership of the billion-dollar property.
DC has long argued that Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson walked away from a settlement deal that would’ve allowed the company to retain all rights to Superman in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions. The publisher claims the heirs only withdrew from the settlement after attorney Marc Toberoff entered the picture, falsely asserting he had a $15 million offer for the rights from a billionaire investor (alleged to be Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel). However, a federal judge determined in 2008 that, without a formalized contract, there was no agreement.
Crime | Police in Jackson, Mississippi, have recovered a comic-book collection valued at $19,000, and arrested two suspects in the burglary. [WJTV]
Legal | Gerry Giovinco questions why Marvel and DC Comics zealously defend their intellectual property rights, going so far as to sue a birthday party company that rented out lookalike costumes, but don’t even touch the many porn parodies of their comics that have sprung up in recent years. [CO2 Comics]
Comics | A Florida mother was upset to discover Chick tracts among her children’s trick-or-treat haul, saying the comics are racist and offensive. It’s the second time in as many weeks that the long-controversial evangelical comics have been publicly called out by a displeased parent. [KTNV]
Legal | The lawyer for Jack Kirby’s heirs asked the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to overturn a 2011 ruling that Marvel owns the copyrights to the characters the late artist co-created for the publisher, arguing that a federal judge misinterpreted the law. Attorney Marc Toberoff, who also represents the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their fight against DC Comics, told a three-judge panel that a freelancer who gets paid only when a publisher likes his work is not, under copyright law, performing work for hire. Marvel countered that Stan Lee’s testimony established Kirby drew the contested works at the publisher’s behest; the Kirby family insists the lower court gave too much credence to Lee’s testimony. Kirby’s children filed 45 notices in 2009 in a bid to terminate their father’s assignment of copyright to characters ranging from the Fantastic Four and the Avengers to Thor and Iron Man under a provision of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act. However, in July 2011, a judge determined those comics created between 1958 and 1963 were work made for hire and therefore ineligible for copyright termination. [Law360.com]
Handing a major victory to DC Comics, a California federal judge has ruled the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with the publisher.
While the decision likely will be appealed, for now it means DC and parent company Warner Bros. can use the Man of Steel any way they wish beyond Oct. 26, 2013, when the Shuster estate would have recaptured its copyright to the first Superman story in 1938′s Action Comics #1. However, the companies must account for any profits earned from the property with the family of co-creator Jerry Siegel, which reclaimed its share in 2008 through a provision of the U.S. Copyright Act (the scope of that decision is on appeal). Had the Shuster estate succeeded, DC and Warner Bros. eventually would have been unable to use many of the character’s defining aspects, including his secret identity, his origin, certain elements of his costume and powers (super-strength and super-speed), and Lois Lane — barring a new agreement with the families of the two creators, naturally.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright granted DC’s motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of whether the Shuster estate’s 2003 copyright-termination notice was invalidated by a 20-year-old agreement with the late artist’s sister Jean Peavy. The publisher had argued the family relinquished all claims to the Man of Steel in 1992 in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for Peavy.
Even as a judge is poised to rule whether the Joe Shuster estate’s bid to reclaim a portion of the Superman rights is valid, DC Comics is accusing the family’s attorney — a longtime legal nemesis of parent company Warner Bros. — of misconduct, and has asked the court to end the case.
Hollywood, Esq. reports the publisher on Wednesday filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing, arguing that attorney Marc Toberoff, who also represents Jerry Siegel’s heirs, “has violated three court orders, submitted four false and misleading declarations, made misrepresentations to the court, bogged down the court for years in his efforts to [hide] the ball, and otherwise subverted DC’s right to a fair search for the truth in both this case and the Siegel case.”
DC is pushing for terminating sanctions, which usually consists of dismissal. Toberoff tells Hollywood, Esq. that the motion is another distraction by the company, which filed a lawsuit in 2010 designed to force him to resign as the Siegels’ attorney.
DC claims that in 2001 Toberoff convinced Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson to walk away from a $3 million deal that would’ve permitted the publisher to retain the rights to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1. Shuster’s nephew Mark Warren Peary also signed with Toberoff, and in 2008 the Siegel family succeeded in reclaiming a portion of the rights through a provision of the U.S. Copyright Act (the case is on appeal); the window opens for the Shuster estate in 2013.
However, DC insists the termination notice filed by Peary in 2003 is invalid, arguing that the estate relinquished all claims to the Man of Steel in 1992 in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” including payment of Shuster’s debts following his death earlier that year and a $25,000 annual pension for his sister Jean Peavy. But Toberoff asserted last month that DC didn’t intend for the “ambiguous” 1992 document to transfer ownership of the copyright, telling U.S. District Judge Otis Wright that the publisher would never pin the future of “a billion-dollar property” on such an agreement. Wright, who will also consider DC’s latest motion, initially was skeptical but later appeared to recognize logic in Toberoff’s argument.
In addition to terminating sanctions, DC seeks the assignment of a special master to investigate any misconduct.
Undeterred by numerous legal setbacks, failed dot-com Stan Lee Media on Tuesday filed a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit against Disney, claiming the entertainment giant doesn’t actually own the Marvel characters featured in such blockbuster films as The Avengers, X-Men: First Class and Thor, and the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The dollar amount reflects the estimated revenue from box-office receipts, licensing and merchandising dating back three years, the statute of limitations for copyright infringement.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Colorado and first reported by Deadline, has its roots in Marvel’s 1998 bankruptcy, when CEO Isaac Perlmutter ended the $1 million-a-year lifetime contract with Stan Lee, negating the legendary writer’s assignment to the company of his rights to his co-creations. It also freed Lee to form Stan Lee Entertainment, which later merged with Stan Lee Media, with infamous entrepreneur Peter F. Paul. That company in turned filed for bankruptcy in February 2001; just four months after SLM emerged from protection in November 2006, shareholders filed a $5 billion lawsuit against Marvel. Stan Lee Media has had no connection to its co-founder and namesake in more than a decade; in fact, the two have sued each other on a few occasions.
Last Friday, Sean Murphy and a host of comic artists and animators joined forces on Twitter for a live chat about exhibiting at conventions, copyright law and the issues of being a working illustrator. Partnered with deviantART, the group included artists Murphy, Eric Canete, Jeff Wamester and Chris Copeland and copyright lawyer Josh Wattles.
The chat came together following Murphy’s blog post “5 Reasons To Write,“ which created quite the fervor in the artist community. DeviantART, who hosts his blog, reached out to Murphy and used that post as a launching pad for the discussion. Although the chat is finished, readers can view it by searching Twiter for “#daChat” and looking at the Sept. 28 tweets.
Marvel on Monday urged the Second Circuit to deny Gary Friedrich’s attempt to revive his copyright claims to Ghost Rider, reiterating that the writer no only signed away his rights to the character three decades earlier but waited too long to file his lawsuit.
Friedrich sued Marvel, Columbia Pictures and Hasbro, among others, shortly after the 2007 release of the first Ghost Rider movie, insisting he had regained the copyright to the fiery Spirit of Vengeance some six years earlier. He argued he created Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider in 1968 and later agreed to publish the character through Magazine Management, which eventually became Marvel Entertainment. Under the agreement, the publisher held the copyright to the character’s origin story in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5, and to subsequent Ghost Rider works. However, Friedrich alleged the company never registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office, permitting the rights to revert to him in 2001.
In December 2011, a federal judge rejected Friedrich’s lawsuit, finding the writer gave up ownership to the property when he endorsed checks that contained language relinquishing rights to Marvel’s predecessors. The judge said Friedrich signed over all claims to the character in 1971 and again in 1978 in exchange for the possibility of more freelance work for the publisher. (Two months later, Marvel agreed to abandon its 2010 countersuit accusing Friedrich of trademark infringement if the writer would pay $17,000 in damages and stop selling unauthorized Ghost Rider merchandise.)
The writer appealed in July, arguing the court erred in ruling that the language on the back of Marvel paychecks in the early 1970s and in the 1978 contract were sufficient to constitute transfer of copyright. However, his attorney also reasserts the claim that the agreement was entered into under duress, with Friedrich told “if I wanted to continue to work for Marvel that I would have to sign it.”
Robot 6 reported Tuesday that comics creator Jazan Wild had sent cease-and-desist demands to book reviewers who posted excerpts of Carnival of Souls, a fantasy novel whose title is the basis of his recent trademark-infringement lawsuit against publisher HarperCollins. A spirited discussion followed in the comments, drawing in Wild (aka Jason Barnes) and his wife Susan Barnes.
Now Wild’s attorney Ted Shiells of Shiells Law Firm in Dallas has contacted Robot 6 with a statement to clarify Wild’s emails to reviewers — “Mr. Wild was not threatening to sue any of these persons. He only intended to make them aware of his trademark rights in CARNIVAL OF SOULS, to minimize the confusion he has already suffered,” Shiells said — and to address some of the questions and criticisms raised in the comments thread.
Wild, who gained attention in 2010 when he sued NBC and the producers of Heroes claiming they’d ripped off his idea for a “carnival of lost souls and outcasts,” accuses HarperCollins of intentionally using Carnival of Souls as the title of Melissa Marr’s new young-adult novel in an effort to create confusion between that book and his own 2005-2006 comic series and related works.
Shiells’ statement, which can be read below, explains the differences between trademark classifications, and underscores that while the title of a single book cannot be trademarked, the title of a series can be. However, there still appears to be some question whether HarperCollins ever planned Carnival of Souls to be the name of Marr’s forthcoming series. (Also in question: If Wild wasn’t threatening to sue bloggers, what exactly was the purpose of the cease-and-desist notices, which by their very nature are a threat of legal action; and what standing does he have to demand that websites remove excerpts of a book for which he holds no copyright. To Sheills’ credit, he apologized for any misunderstanding, but the whole situation is perplexing.)
The lawyer for the estate of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster asked a federal judge on Wednesday to reject DC Comics’ assertion that the artist’s relatives signed away all claims to the Man of Steel 20 years, saying the company would not have staked the ownership of “a billion-dollar property” on a one-page deal.
The hearing follows a tentative ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright granting DC’s motion for partial summary judgment asking the court to enforce a 1992 agreement in which the estate relinquished all claims to the Man of Steel 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 with a $25,000 annual pension. The publisher argued that deal voids a copyright-termination notice filed in 2003 by Shuster’s nephew Mark Warren Peary to reclaim the artist’s portion of the rights to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1.
However, Law 360 reports that Marc Toberoff, the attorney representing the Shuster estate and the family of Jerry Siegel, insisted during Wednesday’s arguments that DC didn’t intend for the “ambiguous” 1992 document to transfer ownership of the copyright. “I submit that it’s impossible for this document to be the basis for Warner Bros. and DC’s chain of title to a billion-dollar property,” he said. “When they want someone to assign a copyright, they have an agreement this thick, and that agreement is filed with the Copyright Office to give the world constructive notice.”
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.”
Publishing | Dark Horse editor Scott Allie explains the publisher’s plan to start numbering B.P.R.D. sequentially, starting with #100, rather than as “an ongoing series of miniseries”: “The reason to make the change was in part how many times [San Francisco retailer and industry pundit] Brian Hibbs told me, ‘Well, really B.P.R.D. is an ongoing…’ And he’s right. Another part of the reason is that as we’ve moved into doing more short stories — two- or three-issue stories — we get those new issue #1′s too often. You do new #1′s to give readers jumping on points, but when they’re coming so quickly it becomes more confusing than anything else. Depending on how retailers rack, you could have two or three B.P.R.D. #1′s on the shelf at a time, and it’s hard for readers or retailer to know what to read next. So while I know it will cause a little confusion to suddenly have #100 out there, a few months down the road it’ll make everything simpler.” [Comics Alliance]
A federal judge is set to decide whether the estate of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster can reclaim a portion of the rights to the Man of Steel.
Variety reports U.S. District Judge Otis Wright has canceled a hearing scheduled for Aug. 20 on a DC Comics motion for summary judgment in the drawn-out, and increasingly bitter, legal dispute, saying he will decide the matter without oral argument.
With the window opening next year for the Shuster estate to recapture its stake in the copyright to the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, DC filed the motion last month revisiting its earlier claims that termination notice filed in 2003 by the artist’s nephew Mark Warren Peary is invalid. The heirs of Shuster’s collaborator Jerry Siegel reclaimed their portion of the rights in 2008 and 2009 under a provision of the U.S. Copyright Act.