Business | Marvel parent The Walt Disney Co., which just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, reportedly has begun an internal cost-cutting review that could include layoffs in its studio and other divisions. The cutbacks are believed to focus on jobs that are no longer needed because of technological advancements and redundancies created by the acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney has made a series of staff cutbacks over the past couple of years, beginning in January 2011 with 200 jobs in its interactive division; Marvel trimmed about a dozen positions in October 2011. [Yahoo! Finance]
Publishing | Robert Stanley Martin takes a new look at Jim Shooter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Marvel. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
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.
Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]
Ah, the cruel end to Shakespeare’s seven ages of man, from Jacque’s “All the world’s a stage” monologue in As You Like It: “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”. The painter Jason Bard Yarmosky seems to have come to a similar conclusion about the links between the very old and the very young, populating his canvasses with a cast of the elderly (his main models being his own grandparents) dressed in the paraphernalia of childhood: cowboy-and-Indian gear, ballet tutus and superhero costumes. Consider it a little glimpse into the retirement homes of the future, populated by the cosplayers of today. More from Yarmosky’s “Elder Kinder” series below, as well as work by Sho Murase, James Hance and others.
Legal | The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today on whether a negotiated 2001 deal DC Comics should prevent the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel from reclaiming his portion of the rights to the Man of Steel under a provision of U.S. copyright law. A federal judge determined in 2008 and 2009 that the writer’s heirs had successfully recaptured the copyright, asserting that because the 2001 agreement hadn’t been formalized, there was no deal. The appeals court is also set to review a ruling allowing DC to sue Marc Toberoff, who represents both the Siegel family and the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster, for interfering with its agreements with the heirs. [Business Week]
Creators | Collaborators Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher talk about the latest Valiant relaunch, Shadowman. [USA Today]
Creators | John Ostrander, who writes several Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, gives his take on Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. [ComicMix]
Since The Walt Disney Company announced Tuesday it will acquire Lucasfilm, fans and pundits have pondered what the deal will mean for both the Star Wars franchise and the House of Mouse. But now the Dark Lord of the Sith has weighed in, responding to the all-important (and, frankly, inevitable) question, “Now that you’re part of the Disney family … what will you do next?” Watch the Disney Parks video below.
So anything interesting happen yesterday? Oh, yes, that’s right. Even the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy wasn’t enough to delay the big announcement any longer: Star Wars is now the newest crown jewel of the House of Mouse. The announcement was made a day after plans were revealed to merge two of the world’s biggest book publishers, Random House and Penguin. The two events, while occurring independent of each other, have all sorts of implications both specific and more broad.
Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm started a lot of people talking, and considering the legacy of Star Wars, it’s only natural. With George Lucas out as director and Star Wars transitioning into something akin to the James Bond franchise, don’t get your hopes up for a return to the sensibilities of the original Star Wars movie. The word “family” was used six times to describe the space opera in the press release and subsequent statements, sending a strong signal that what we’ve gotten most recently is what we’ll get for the foreseeable future. Kathleen Kennedy was hand-picked by Lucas to succeed him as head of Lucasfilm and brand manager of Star Wars. Between her and Lucas’ role as creative consultant, they’ll ensure Star Wars retains something for the kids, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, except for when it manifests itself in the form of Jar Jar Binks and other cartoon aliens with vaguely racist accents. In addition to the two- to three-year cycle of Star Wars films, there are plans for a TV presence and an expanded presence at Disney theme parks.
You know that it’s possibly time to abandon all hope when one of the first thoughts you have when reading the news that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney is “But what will that mean for Brian Wood’s new Star Wars series from Dark Horse?”
This may not technically be comics-related, but Disney’s Mouse and Duck characters are almost as well-known for their comics incarnations as for their animated short films. And the issues raised by corporate watchdog movement Sum of Us are related to concerns that get discussed in the comics community.
What’s going on is that Barneys department store has partnered with Disney to create a holiday campaign called “Electric Holiday.” The store will host window displays that will turn classic Disney characters like Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Goofy into runway supermodels. Of course, there will be exclusive, Disney-themed designer fashions in the store as well.
The creative problem, as Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman describes it, is that “the standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress.” He adds, “If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie.”
That’s not cool with Sum of Us, which describes the designs as “stretched out, unrealistically skinny, and aimed at young women.” The group writes, “Young girls are already bombarded with waif bodies and impossible figures, contributing to soaring cases of anorexia, bulimia, and other dangerous eating disorders. Now Disney is using children’s cartoon characters to promote the least realistic, unhealthiest body image yet.”
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.
Buried within a lengthy Comics Journal discussion about the bizarre — and ultimately unsuccessful — public negotiations between Dave Sim and Fantagraphics to release collected editions of Cerebus, Gary Groth announced Thursday the next books in the publisher’s acclaimed Carl Barks and EC Comics lines.
The next installment of the Carl Barks Library, titled The Old Castle’s Secret, will include reprints of Donald Duck stories from 1947 and 1948: “The Old Castle’s Secret,” “In Darkest Africa,” “Wintertime Wager” “Watching the Watchman,” “Wired,” “Going Ape,” “Spoil the Rod,” “Bird Watching,” “Horseshoe Luck,” “Bean Taken,” “Rocket Race to the Moon,” “Donald of the Coast Guard,” “Gladstone Returns,” “Links Hijinks,” “Sorry to be Safe,” “Sheriff of Bullet Valley,” “Best Laid Plans,” “The Genuine Article,” “Pearls of Wisdom” and “Foxy Relations.”
Following the January release of “50 Girls 50″ and Other Stories by Al Williamson and “Taint the Meat … It’s the Humanity” and Other Stories by Jack Davis, Fantagraphics will expand its EC Comics Library with a crime volume dedicated to the work of Johnny Craig and a science fiction devoted to Al Feldstein.
“I’m very happy I didn’t have to negotiate these contracts on an internet thread,” Groth said.
(via The Beat)
Marvel Studios is moving from Manhattan Beach, California, its home for the past four years, to new offices in Glendale, just minutes from Walt Disney Studios’ Burbank lot. Marvel Animation opened its studio in Glendale earlier this year.
Variety reports the relocation, expected to be completed by the spring, will affect as many as 150 employees. The exact location of the new building hasn’t been made public.
Marvel Studios moved its executive and production offices from Beverly Hills to Raleigh Studios Manhattan Beach in 2008 (before Marvel’s purchase by Disney), becoming the largest tenant at the 23-acre facility. There it filmed parts of Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers.
The trade paper notes that the loss of Marvel won’t hurt Raleigh too much, however, as James Cameron’s production company has signed a five-year deal to film the next two Avatar sequels there.
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 | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]
Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
Digital comics | The Japanese web portal JManga today launched an unlimited-access site JManga7, although it won’t be putting any actual content on it until October. Unlike JManga, which sells digital manga one volume at a time, JManga7 operates on an “all-you-can-eat” model, with single chapters of a variety of titles available for free, and a wider selection with a paid subscription. The site will be updated daily and will include a mix of genres, with some new content that is being published close to its Japanese release date as well as some older series. The idea is for readers to check out the manga at JManga7 and ultimately buy them for keeps at JManga. To encourage readers to pre-register, JManga is raffling off seven Nexus 7 tablets and seven free subscriptions. Plans for the site were unveiled last month at Comic-Con International in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources. [JManga]