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In an era where the creator’s rights conversation is as loud as its ever been in comics, this week saw some surprising news quietly slip out onto the web: Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella and DC Comics have taken the first steps towards reconciling a very contentious relationship.
The writer has long contended he’s the sole creator of DC’s first black superhero to star in a solo series as the character wasn’t introduced under a work-for-hire agreement but rather a partnership between he and DC. It was only after Isabella sought to buy out the publisher’s interest in the character following the cancellation of that first series in 1978 that he says DC declared artist Trevor Von Eeden as Black Lightning’s co-creator.
While Isabella did some later work with the publisher — most notably the first nine issues of a 13-issue Black Lightning revival in 1995 — he’s spent the majority of the past two decades being very vocal about his discontent with the publisher and their treatment of him. Most recently, the writer spoke out against DC’s choice to revive and redesign the hero as part of the New 52 initiative.
In a Facebook post that was disseminated this morning by Bleeding Cool, longtime creator rights advocate Stephen Bissette revealed that Marvel’s parent company sent a cease-and-desist demand to Lee and Kaluta challenging their ownership of Starstruck, which was released briefly in 1985 and 1986 under the publisher’s Epic Comics imprint. But what initially appeared to be an instance of a media conglomerate bullying creators may have been a simple, if nerve-wracking, mistake on Disney’s part.
“Just to make sure that things don’t veer into the realm of ‘truthiness,’ Michael Kaluta and I received a letter that challenged our ownership of Starstruck and used the words, ‘please stop all sales and other related activities,'” Lee clarified later today. “Through our lawyer, we provided two letters from Marvel’s former publisher, Mike Hobson, that backed our ownership of Starstruck. Things seem to have calmed down now. The situation seems to have been resolved. (I’m overusing the word ‘seems,’ so as not to jinx myself. Knock wood.) It was scary. At first, we weren’t sure we could find the 3-decades-old documents we needed. (From way back in the pre-digital days, youngsters. We’re talking paper here. Dusty, old, yellow paper.) But there is no lawsuit. We think it may either have been about Disney’s teen movie of a couple of years back, also called Starstruck. They may have found us while looking for people infringing on their property. Or they may have been simply trying to figure out what they still owned. But it was a frightening way to do it. So, this may have been an aberration, or other Epic creators may hear from them. Who knows? But creators may want to scare up that old paperwork. It can’t hurt and might save you several days of abject fear.”
A Marvel spokesman had no comment when contacted by Robot 6.
Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]
Comic-Con | The dust hasn’t even settled on Comic-Con International, and already the hand-wringing has begun anew over whether organizers will keep the event in San Diego past their 2015 contract. A proposed $550 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center would have to break ground by the end of the year to meet a 2016 deadline. [Fox 5]
Conventions | To coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first San Diego Comic-Con, some of the founders are organizing San Diego Comic Fest, a small-scale event — it’s described as “an old-school comic con” — to be held Oct. 19-21. [UT-San Diego]