The inarguable success of Marvel Studios has Hollywood’s attention. In an industry forever nervous about new ideas, the strategy impulsively becomes how to duplicate it.
DreamWorks Animation’s $155 million purchase of Classic Media was inspired, at least in part, by the record-shattering performance of Marvel’s The Avengers, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told Reuters. And similar to Marvel’s pre-Iron Man days, Katzenberg sees this as a strong opportunity to farm out the newly acquired characters to other studios for adaptation. Aside from its Mr. Peabody & Sherman 3D movie already in the works, DreamWorks has no plans to create new live-action features based on the Classic Media characters. But the small screen may be another matter: The studio is setting up its own television or Internet channel, but whether this is to re-run classic episodes, like Cartoon Network does with Boomerang, or for new series is still unknown.
“A channel is one of the many opportunities we see for combining the DreamWorks brand with this extraordinary library of characters,” Katzenberg said. “It could be a domestic cable channel, international, even an Internet channel.”
But more immediately, the purchase provides DreamWorks additional leverage as it negotiates to renew its distribution deal with Paramount Pictures.
All of this studio-driven activity around comic book properties sounds great, but where does that leave the comics themselves? Will DreamWorks open a comics publishing company? Will Doctor Solar be reunited with the recently revived Valiant Universe? Will The Lone Ranger vanish from Dynamite Entertainment’s line-up? What about Ape Entertainment’s Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich relaunches? Will the world finally get a new Fat Albert comic?
News broke earlier this week at DreamWorks Animation submitted a bid for Classic Media, a production company that’s not that well known outside of Hollywood. However, it has bought an amazing number of properties over the years that make this auction something to watch. In addition to favorites like Casper the Friendly Ghost and The Lone Ranger, its library includes Dick Tracy, Little Lulu, Richie Rich, and a big portion of the Gold Key/Valiant characters (Doctor Solar Man of the Atom, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok and others). Heck, Classic Media even owns Where’s Waldo? According to some estimates, Classic Media is the third-largest comic books rights holder, after DC and Marvel.
While I don’t see DreamWorks starting a comics company in the near future (in the near future), the company already does a good deal of licensing to comic publishers like Dark Horse and APE Entertainment. This potential business deal could have ripples that hit comic shelves years down the road.
Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and Platinum Studios have asked a federal judge in Texas to dismiss a lawsuit filed in December by a cartoonist claiming the sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens infringes on his 1995 comic of the same name.
In his complaint, Steven Busti contends the 2006 graphic novel on which the movie is based “contains striking similarities” to his own story, published more than a decade earlier in Bizarre Fantasy #1. Among those are “an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked” and an alien commander “incredibly similar” to the conqueror “Morguu” in Busti’s work.
But Law 360 reports that in a motion filed Tuesday, the studios and Cowboys & Aliens creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg assert Busti doesn’t provide sufficient evidence that Rosenberg had access to the self-published Bizarre Fantasy, “but instead simply alleges his comic was ‘published internationally and widely available’ and that a preview of his Cowboys and Aliens story appeared on an eight-page, obscure free weekly publication.”
Indeed, Busti, who didn’t register his comic with the U.S. Copyright Office until September 2011, two months after the premiere of the Universal film, seems to rely heavily on timing for his complaint: He notes that a preview of his “Cowboys and Aliens” story appeared on the back of Bizarre Fantasy #0 in November 1995, and was spotlighted in Comic Shop News, on the same page as a profile of Rosenberg. Less than two years later, Platinum released a one-sheet featuring a cowboy chased by an alien spaceship, part of a promotional effort that led to the sale of the film rights and the eventual release in 2006 of the graphic novel.
The defendants also brushed off accusations that the Platinum graphic novel and subsequent film adaptation bear “striking similarities” to Busti’s comic, saying that such aspects as the alien ship flying over a cowboy and the attack on the Native Americans “are generic plot elements that do not demonstrate striking similarity.”
Ben Caldwell tested for Dreamworks a few years ago and received some very cool notes about effective character design and visual storytelling techniques. He’s sharing those on his blog in a couple of posts, noting that while the pages were designed to help storyboard artists, “a lot of it is good, commonsense advice for graphic storytelling in general.”
I occurs to me that this isn’t just for artists either. Some of the advice could be helpful for comics writers as well, especially the stuff about “cuts,” which is just another way of talking about using panels to facilitate more exciting pacing.
In his complaint, first reported by TMZ, Steven Bunti contends the 2006 Platinum graphic novel on which the film is based “contains striking similarities” to his own story, published more than a decade earlier in Bizarre Fantasy #1. Among those are “an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked” and an alien commander “incredibly similar” to the conqueror “Morguu” in Bunti’s work.
Although Bunti didn’t register his comic with the U.S. Copyright Office until September, two months after the premiere of the Universal film, he notes that a preview of the story appeared on the back of Bizarre Fantasy #0 in November 1995, and was spotlighted in Comic Shop News — on the same page as a story about Malibu Studios and Platinum chairman, and Cowboys & Aliens creator, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (he’s also named in Bunti’s lawsuit).
In May 1997, Platinum released a one-sheet featuring a cowboy chased by an alien spaceship, part of a promotional effort that led Universal and DreamWorks to buy the film rights to Cowboys & Aliens, and Platinum to publish the 2006 graphic novel, overseen by Rosenberg.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Dark Horse Presents is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Puss in Boots Movie Prequel – I don’t care for movie prequel comics as a rule, but swashbuckling cats are awesome in any incarnation. As long as these are fresh gags and not just ones warmed up from Shrek, I expect to enjoy this.
Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Book 1 - I just introduced my son to The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth a couple of weeks ago, so this is great timing. He had the same questions about The Dark Crystal‘s world that I always do, so I’m looking forward to seeing Archaia’s take on answering those. Totally feel like the world’s in good hands with this publisher and these creators.
The Sigh - If Archaia’s snagging Marjane Satrapi’s (Persepolis, Chicken With Plums) new book has been reported already, I missed it. I’m surprised that wasn’t bigger news.
Siegfried, Volume 1 – I’ve been meaning to read P Craig Russell’s Ring of the Nibelung adaptation for years, so I think this might be what pushes me to finally do it. It would be fun to read Russell’s and compare it to this version by Alex Alice.