Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
In a surprising conclusion to their rights dispute, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. and Dynamite Entertainment this morning announced an agreement for the worldwide release of John Carter comics, archival material and the publisher’s Lord of the Jungle line.
ERB Inc., the family-owned company that controls the existing rights to the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels, sued Dynamite in February 2012, accusing the publisher of trademark and copyright infringement and unfair competition through the release of its Lord of the Jungle and Warlord of Mars comics. Dynamite responded, insisting that its series were based on material that’s lapsed into the public domain, and noting that other publishers have released Burroughs-inspired comics, using similar titles, without a license from ERB Inc.
Now that the two parties have settled their differences, and ERB Inc. has reacquired the John Carter comics rights from Disney and Marvel, Dynamite will be able to relaunch Warrior of Mars later this year as John Carter: Warlord of Mars, and introduce characters and plot elements “that were, until now, absent from recent comic book interpretations” (presumably because they remain protected by copyright). Dynamite will also republish John Carter archival material, dating back to the early 1940s comic strips written by Burroughs’ son Coleman Burroughs.
Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the company founded by the creator of Tarzan and still run by his family, has begun publishing webcomics based on six of the author’s most famous creations. Roy Thomas and Tom Grindberg (who have been producing the Tarzan comic strips since 2012) continue creating new stories featuring the ape man, while Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle explore the Earth’s Core world of Pellucidar. Writer Martin Powell is joined by four different artists on the remaining series: Carson of Venus (with Thomas Floyd and Diana Leto), The Eternal Savage (with Steven E. Gordon), The Cave Girl (with Diana Leto), and The War Chief (with Nik Poliwko).
The ERB Inc. website has samples of each series for free, and readers can then subscribe to all six for $1.99 a month. Each series updates weekly, so that’s about 24 pages for just $2; a great deal.
I had some questions about the initiative, so I contacted Powell, who was extremely helpful. For one thing, these webcomics don’t affect Dark Horse, which still holds the license for printed Tarzan comics. He also explained why there’s no series for John Carter: “I originally auditioned for John Carter of Mars, but Disney/Marvel still has a hold on it. Still, ERB Inc. was apparently impressed enough that they offered me Carson of Venus and allowed me to assemble my own art team, which I’ve done for my other four ERB comic strips as well. So, you could say in a sense that I am Carson … we both aimed at Mars and ended up on Venus!”
It seems to me a Kickstarter for an Elaine Lee/Michael Kaluta project should be a no-brainer. And considering that in the first 24 hours of the Harry Palmer: Starstruck Kickstarter, close to half of the $44,000 goal was raised, I was not alone in thinking that way. At present, the Kickstarter, which started on April 2 (and ends May 2), has reached more than $35,000.
Kaluta agreed to an interview about the 176-page sci-fi noir graphic novell, which has been years in the making, and it proved fun to chat with the legendary artist on how he intends to marry 80 new pages with 60-some pages of existing material.
Tim O’Shea: This Kickstarter came within hundreds of dollars of making half of its goal within that first 24 hours. What was your reaction to see the project make such progress, so quickly?
Michael Kaluta: I was definitely gratified, and tried to be sanguine (I read books … sanguine … heh!), but, of course, the specter of getting almost to the goal and then having the Kickstarter stall looms large in my dreams… as it must for everyone hoping to go forward with their dream-project thanks to the Kickstarter approach. I’ll soldier on, clearing the drawing board for not only the new Harry Palmer pages, but for the Kickstarter reward drawings I’ll be doing when and if everything comes up roses.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics.
Wait a minute … “monthly”?
It’s true that we haven’t taken a What Looks Good tour in a few months, but the feature is back with an all-new approach that we hope will be more varied and useful than the old format. Instead of Michael and Graeme just commenting on everything that catches our attention in the catalog, we’ve invited Chrises Mautner and Arrant to join us in each picking the five new comics we’re most looking forward to. What we’ll end up with is a Top 20 (or so; there may be some overlap) of the best new comics coming out each month.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
1) Love and Rockets New Stories #5 by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics) — How do you possibly top the triumphant storytelling feat that was “The Love Bunglers”? I dunno, but Jaime Hernandez is certainly going to give it the old college try, this time shifting the focus onto the vivacious “Frogmouth” character. Gilbert, meanwhile, brings back some of his classic Palomar characters, so yeah, this is pretty much a “must own” for me.
2) Skippy Vol. 1: Complete Dailies 1925-1927 by Percy Crosby (IDW) — Percy Crosby’s Skippy might well be the great forgotten comic strip of the 20th century. Extremely popular in its day, and a huge influence on such luminaries as Charles Schulz, the strip has largely been forgotten and the name conjures up little more than images of peanut butter. IDW’s effort to reacquaint folks with this strip might change that — the few snippets I’ve read suggest this is real lost gem.
3) The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized Books) — Tom Kaczynski’s small-press publishing company drops its first major, “big book” release with this memoir from the always-excellent Gabrielle Bell. Collecting work from her series Lucky (and, I think, some of her recent minis), the book chronicles a turbulent five year period as she travels around the world. Should be great.
4) Godzilla: The Half Century War by James Stokoe (IDW) — I usually stay as far away from licensed books as possible, but there is one simple reason I’m including this comic in my top five: James Stokoe. Stokoe’s Orc Stain has quickly become one of my favorite serialized comics, and his obsession with detailing every inch of the page combined with his ability to incorporate significant manga storytelling tropes in his work convince me he can do a solid job chronicling the adventures of the big green lizard that spits radioactive fire.
5) Barbara by Osamu Tezuka (Digital Manga) — Speaking of manga, here’s one of the more noteworthy Kickstarter projects of recent years: Digital Manga’s attempt to bring the master’s saga of a famous author and the homeless, beautiful woman he takes in and assumes to be his literal muse. This is well regarded in many Tezuka fan circles as one of the cartoonist’s better adult stories, and I’m glad to see Digital willing to take a chance on bringing more Tezuka to the West. I’ll definitely be buying this. I should also note that Vertical will also be offering some Tezuka this month, namely a new edition of Adolph (originally published by Viz in the ’90s), here titled Message to Adolph but well worth checking out regardless of the title.
In response to the lawsuit filed in February by Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., Dynamite Entertainment has filed what amounts to a blanket denial to accusations of trademark and copyright infringement and unfair competition involving its Lord of the Jungle and Warlord of Mars comics.
ERB Inc., which holds the existing rights to the works of the author of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels, claims the comics Lord of the Jungle, Warlord of Mars, Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris and Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom are likely to “deceive, mislead and confuse the public” about the source or sponsorship of the content, causing “irreparable injury” to the family-owned company. It also insists the titles were published without authorization after Dynamite Entertainment President Nick Barrucci was told that Dark Horse held the licenses for the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars books.
In its answer to the complaint, filed last week in federal court in New York City and first reported by The Beat, Dynamite points out that the Burroughs works on which the comics are based are no longer protected by U.S. copyright law. As to the trademarks, the publisher notes, “There are numerous examples of Burroughs’ novels, and other works inspired by Burroughs’ novels bearing such alleged marks or similar marks, which have been published by third parties without any reference to” ERB Inc.
“In addition, Burroughs’ public domain novel Tarzan of the Apes has been republished by numerous publishers without any attribution to plaintiff, and the basic story of a jungle-dwelling, Tarzan-like character has appeared in literature and film without any affiliation to plaintiff,” the document states.
Dynamite, of course, asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit, which will likely be watched closely by those concerned with what’s been characterized as an effort to use a trademark to, effectively, prolong the duration of copyright. Read the publisher’s full answer below.
When it comes to AdHouse Books’ Chris Pitzer, there’s one basic fact: When he publishes a book, I know it’s important to pay attention to it. So when I found out about Blue Collar/White Collar, which collects the work of award-winning illustrator and painter Sterling Hundley, I immediately contacted Pitzer to see the book and (soon after checking out the book) to get Hundley to commit to an email interview. In the course of this discussion I was pleased to find out that Hundley has plans to create his own characters and stories in the future. After reading the interview, be sure to enjoy the 10-page preview that Pitzer offers interested readers.
Tim O’Shea: In the Foreword to the book, you wrote: “In a time when access has reached the Faustian ideal, information is often confused with knowledge. I refuse to accept that appropriation and homogenization are the movements that will define our generation. The search for original thought is a journey of faith – a belief that art is necessary because it isn’t necessary. The compulsion to create is emblematic of life that has moved beyond the base functions of survival. Art is evolution.” How much living and pursuing of art did you experience before realizing “a belief that art is necessary because it isn’t necessary”?
Sterling Hundley: Coming from a family that is primarily Blue Collar, I’ve always questioned the validity of a pursuit of the arts. You can’t eat it, or use it. Art serves no utilitarian function. Having lived long enough, I’ve come to realize that art is as necessary as any other basic function.
Freshly returned from Heroes Con, Roger Langridge wants you to know that he has a number of projects that will be bearing fruit later this year.
First up is Snarked! from BOOM! Studios’ all-ages line kaboom, in which Langridge riffs on Lewis Carroll’s characters the Walrus and the Carpenter (from Through the Looking Glass). CBR has a preview so you can get a taste. Langridge has added a few lines to Carroll’s poem and taken the Walrus’s lovable-rascal character to new heights.
Next, Langridge is adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter novels for Marvel, starting with John Carter: A Princess of Mars (which sounds like it’s going to be about a transgender John Carter, although I doubt that’s the case—we’ll have to wait for the manga for that), due out in September.
Finally, a treasure trove for Langridge fans: The Show Must Go On, a 200+ page collection of Langridge’s comics that spans his career, including Mugwhump the Great, which just wrapped up on Act-I-Vate. The collection will be published by Boom Town, BOOM!’s indy comics imprint, and Langridge says it will be ready in time for SPX this fall.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15: It would be tough. For one thing, DC has three books for $5 or more each that I’m interested in — the last issues of Justice League Generation Lost and Brightest Day, as well as Action Comics #900. If I bought all three, well … I couldn’t buy all three, at least not for $15. I stopped reading Brightest Day several issues ago, so I’m more curious about the return of a certain character to the DCU proper than anything. And I’ll probably hold off on Action as well, at least for now. But Justice League Generation Lost‘s final issue ($4.99) would be at the top of my buy list for sure.
The Outlaw Prince, due out in April from Dark Horse, looks like a treat for fans of knights, swords, and the Middle Ages in general. It’s based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel The Outlaw of Torn, and features a prince who is kidnapped, taken away from his royal family, and trained in swordsmanship, becoming the most feared man in all of Britain. The graphic novel is written by Rob Hughes, who apparently expanded on Burroughs’ original, and illustrated in a very classic, almost 1930s style by Thomas Yeates (pencils, inks, colors), Michael Kaluta (pencils), and Lori Almeida (colors). Hughes has an Outlaw Prince website up that features a generous preview, and it’s well worth a look; the art is old school but vivid and lively.