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Nintendo + Dark Horse = replacement for ‘Star Wars’ license

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Ever since Disney announced the purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, virtually everyone in the comics industry knew there was a ticking clock on Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics; it’s only natural, after all, that the entertainment giant would move the profitable Star Wars license in-house, similar to how it shuffled the Disney and Pixar titles from BOOM! Studios to Marvel in 2011. Following the announcement last month that Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics line will end its 20-plus year run at the end of the year, the next obvious question concerns what will take its place.

It’s difficult to overstate how big of an impact the Star Wars comics have had on Dark Horse. In the early days 0f 2014, the publisher has two ongoing series and two miniseries — one of which, The Star Wars, was the highest-selling Dark Horse and licensed title in 2013. The company has already announced plans for a broader Aliens/Predator/Prometheus line that could fill some of the holes left by Star Wars come January 2015, but recent news in the video game world gives me another idea …

Nintendo.

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Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ characters heading to ‘Disney Infinity’?

disney infinity

Coming perhaps as little surprise, if still welcome news to hopeful fans, Disney is rumored to be developing new versions of its expansive Disney Infinity video game that will feature Marvel and Star Wars characters.

The information is included in a Wall Street Journal report about the expected layoffs of “several hundred” more people from Disney Interactive Studios, despite the game’s strong launch in August.

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Captain America to return to Disneyland this spring

Captain America at the D23 Expo

Captain America at the D23 Expo

Captain America, who made his Disneyland debut in August for the D23 Expo, will return to the Anaheim, California, theme park in April as part of the marketing push for Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

No further details accompanied the announcement. Visitors to Disneyland can already experience the Thor: Treasures of Asgard and Iron Man Tech Presented by Star Industries exhibits, both launched in conjunction with the characters’ respective films.

The Sentinel of Liberty has the distinction of being the first Marvel character to appear at a Disney event (D23) since the media giant purchased Marvel in 2009. He can also be seen on Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic as part of the Avengers Academy kids’ area.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens April 4.

Quote of the Day | Marvel comics, movies and editorial direction

captain america25“I’m just jumping on this one because I find it ludicrous. First of all, that’s what we should be doing. In order to help the print business we need to get as many people as possible excited about the content we’re delivering them, and the less confusing it is for them to engage in our product, the more success we’re going to have. That’s one part. We should be communicating with each other. [...] At the same, we allowed Ed Brubaker to kill Captain America and have another guy run around in that costume for over 18 months to two years when we were making a Captain America movie. We stopped making Thor the comic book for over a year and then we re-launched it with JMS and Oliver Coipel telling his story. Does Marvel give editorial direction on what you can and cannot do with our characters? Yes. We did that before we made movies and before we went to Disney. That’s what the editorial group does here for a living.”

– Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, responding to the suggestion that companies like his “with a big media operation” are “controlling the print content to a greater degree in order to make it align more successfully with the other media”


Comics A.M. | Case of Sherlock Holmes rights isn’t over just yet

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).

However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]

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Dark Horse editor finds bright spot in loss of ‘Star Wars’ license

star wars omnibusWhile it was certainly inevitable, Friday’s announcement that Dark Horse will lose the Star Wars license after more than two decades to Disney-owned Marvel nonetheless left many longtime readers dismayed, to say the least. To those fans, Dark Horse Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley points out a silver lining: “[If] Dark Horse must lose the license, this is probably a good time for it.”

“From my perspective, the upcoming films will mean less freedom to do what we at Dark Horse have always done best: expanding the universe,” Stradley, who has served as senior editor of the Star Wars line since 2002, wrote Sunday on his Facebook page. “With a new film scheduled every year, and a new television series, it is likely that there will be a lot of comics pages devoted to adaptations and direct spin-off stories in support of the films and TV shows. That’s not where my interests lie, and it has never been Dark Horse’s strong suit. That would be too much like real work to me. Probably, the coming years will be a great time to be a Star Wars fan (especially a *new* Star Wars fan), and I hope you all enjoy the ride, but I think I’m going to be glad to not be in the mix.”

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Shuho Sato to adapt ‘Ender’s Game’ as manga

Shuho Sato's preliminary sketch for his Ender's Game manga

Shuho Sato’s preliminary sketch for his Ender’s Game manga

Manga creator Shuho Sato is drawing a manga “inspired by” Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. It’s not clear whether this is an authorized version, but the first chapter will appear on Sato’s website, Manga on Web, on Jan. 11, a week before the movie premieres in Japan.

The impending release of the movie seems to be creating a bit of a stir in Japan, as the a new translation of the novel was published this year, and Disney is exhibiting at the massive doujinshi event Comiket for the first time ever to promote the film.

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MarvelKids, Hello Kitty app violate children’s privacy law, group claims

marvelkidsAn online-privacy advocacy group has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate MarvelKids.com and the Hello Kitty Carnival mobile app, which it insists fail to protect children’s personal information as required by federal law.

In twin complaints filed Wednesday, the Center for Digital Democracy claims neither Marvel nor Sanrio Digital “provides adequate notice or obtains verifiable parental consent prior to collecting, using, or disclosing personal information about its child users,” as mandated by the 14-year-old Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The complaints are the first to be filed since the FTC implemented stricter rules in July.

Launched in January 2008, MarvelKids is a hub “designed to entertain and educate children” using the company’s kid-friendly comics, animated series and games. Visitors can watch episodes and clips from shows like Ultimate Spider-Man and Wolverine and the X-Men, read issues of titles like Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and assorted Power Pack team-ups, and play upward of 20 online games.

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Stan Lee Media takes another stab at Marvel character rights

Spider-manSay what you will about the shareholders of Stan Lee Media, but despite suffering one loss after another in their decade-long battle for the rights to Marvel’s best-known characters, they’re still unwilling to concede defeat.

In papers filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Deadline, the failed dot-com now seeks a declaratory judgment that it, and not Disney or Marvel, owns Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor and other superheroes.

The move, which comes just three months after an annoyed federal judge dismissed their multibillion-dollar claim against Disney, springs from a lawsuit filed in September by the media giant against the American Music Theatre, which is accused of using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a stage revue without permission. In a surprise twist, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based theater responded last month that it has a license to use Spider-Man and numerous other Marvel heroes — through an exclusive agreement with Stan Lee Media. Somewhat conveniently, American Music Theatre filed a third-party counterclaim against Stan Lee Media, opening the door for Tuesday’s filing.

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Comics A.M. | Online effort raises $5,000 for struggling store

StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games

StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games

Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]

Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]

Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]

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Theater claims it licensed Spider-Man from Stan Lee Media

Disney and MarvelNo matter how hard they try, Disney and Marvel can’t seem to shake the specter of Stan Lee Media: Just two months after a federal judge dismissed a multibillion lawsuit against Disney for ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee, the failed dot-com has emerged in another, seemingly unrelated dispute.

In September, Disney, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-bases American Music Theatre, saying it violated copyrights and trademarks by using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever (Disney and Mackintosh jointly hold the copyright to the Mary Poppins stage production).

On Monday the theater responded with an eye-opening claim of its own: that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim states, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.

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Marvel and LEGO assemble ‘Maximum Overload’ web series [Updated]

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LEGO and Marvel are re-teaming for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload, an online series launching today on Disney.com, the Disney YouTube channel and the Roku and Xbox Live TV apps. All 10 episodes will premiere simultaneously.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series finds Loki discovering “a way to put the ‘super’ in super-villain” as he assembles an army to conquer Earth, leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s most popular heroes to face old foes who suddenly possess new powers.

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Stan Lee developing ‘Zodiac’ illustrated novel for Disney

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Disney Publishing Worldwide has acquired Zodiac, an illustrated novel by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore and Andie Tong.

Based on the Chinese zodiac, the book follows a Chinese-American teenager who’s drawn into a global conspiracy after he and other youth around the world are suddenly bestowed with magical powers.

Lee already has a relationship with Disney, dating back at least to a 2007 first-look deal with the legendary creator’s POW! Entertainment. In 2009, just as Disney completed its purchased of Marvel, the entertainment giant expanded that agreement and acquired a 10 percent equity stake in POW.

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Wolverine is the prettiest Disney Princess

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In the spirit of Halloween and awesomeness, Tumblr user David J. Prokopetz commissioned some of the most intriguing crossover pieces to date: Wolverine as Disney Princesses.

Indeed, Prokopetz has already posted 14 different images of the best there is at what he does — and apparently, what he does is wear the crap out of a dress. While some of the drawings are clearly meant to evoke specific Disney Princesses, many are simply what Wolverine would look like were he designed from the top-down as a Disney princess. Perhaps the best one comes from Larbesta, who incorporates aspects of Wolverine’s costume and accentuates it with a pretty pink parasol.

Marvel, take note: these would be some of the best variant covers you could ask for during Halloween 2014. Seriously.

Be sure to check out the rest of Wolverine is the Best Disney Princess on Prokopetz’s blog.

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Disney bringing an end to Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ slot machines

spiderman slot machineDisney, which has long fought against the expansion of casinos in Florida, is bringing to an end some licensing deals that have been viewed as hypocritical to that anti-gambling stance: slot machines, online slots and lottery tickets featuring Marvel and Star Wars characters.

The New York Times reports the announcement, made over the weekend, comes as the Florida legislature again prepares to address whether Las Vegas-style casino resorts should be permitted to open in the state. The Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista attracts 52.5 million visitors annually; the entertainment giant argues that gambling hurts the state’s family-friendly brand.

Although Disney is so opposed to gambling that it doesn’t even casinos on its cruise ships — that’s an oddity in the industry — Marvel continued to sign slot machine agreements after it was purchased by the corporation in 2009 for $4.6 billion. But a Marvel spokeswoman told The Times the last deal was made two years ago, and the company has “discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney.” Those that remain will be allowed to expire.

Marvel heroes like Iron Man and the Avengers have appeared on scratch-off lottery tickets in several states, but the company said there are no active licensing deals.

A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World attributed the lag to the complexities of aligning corporate policies following a merger.


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