Retailing | The direct market is looking good, with first-quarter sales up 29 percent over last year, according to figures released at the Diamond Retailer Summit. Heidi MacDonald reports, “There was no single element which seemed to be behind to surge, although sales of The Walking Dead comics and graphic novels were frequently mentioned. The general interest in “nerd culture” seems to be driving much of the merchandise and publishing growth, with more offerings in the housewares category a standout: Diamond is now offering their own line of such things as bottle openers and ice cube trays, such as a Walking Dead themed ice cube tray in the shape of body parts.” [Publishers Weekly]
Conventions | CBR and Robot 6 are covering C2E2 in depth, but for a quick overview, check out Christopher Borrelli’s recap and photo gallery. [Chicago Tribune]
Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested last week on charges of sedition, held over the weekend, and released on S$10,000 bail. His cellphone and computer were also confiscated. The charges stem from two cartoons on Chew’s Demon-cratic Singapore Facebook page. [Yahoo! News Singapore]
Crowdfunding | Chris Sims tells the truly bizarre tale of a crowdfunding scam: Someone copied Ken Lowery and Robert Wilson IV’s Kickstarter campaign for Like a Virus, including the video, and made it into an IndieGoGo campaign, presumably planning to pocket the money and run. [Comics Alliance]
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.
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.
Comics | David Brothers argues that the problem with Miles Morales is that he is being defined as “the black Spider-Man” rather than simply “Spider-Man”: “Miles Morales is notable for being the first black Spider-Man, particularly in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, but it isn’t his blackness that makes him special. It’s the fact that he’s not Peter Parker. The fact that he’s half-black, half-Puerto Rican, (and how cool would it be if his dad was a dark skinned Puerto Rican and his mom was light skinned black?!), that it looks like he’s taking part in a lottery to get into a good school in the preview images, and that he’s thirteen years old is just sauce. It’s not the meal. It’s part of the meal, sure, but you do yourself and the character (or rather, the concept, what the character represents, or something, because we do not respect characters ’round these parts) a disservice by boiling him down to “black Spider-Man.” He’s so much more than that, judging by the press run Marvel just went on, that breaking him down to being the black Spider-Man is… it’s garbage, it’s lazy, it’s stupid.” [4thletter!]
Red Giant Entertainment has recruited several top names in the comics industry to contribute to Japan Needs Heroes, a graphic novel that aims to raise money for the Japan Society, a non-profit organization that has created a special disaster relief fund to aid victims of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan.
A press release that went out today from comiXology, which will distribute the book digitally when it is released, listed Stan Lee (who will provide the forward), Peter David, Ron Marz, Mike Deodato, Larry Hama, Jimmy Palmiotti, Elaine Lee, Amanda Conner, Howard Mackie and Brandon Peterson as contributors. You can find a list of additional creators on the book’s Kickstarter page, which Red Giant is using to fund the printing.
“My wife is from Japan,” said Benny R. Powell, CEO of Red Giant, “and her family still lives there. We hear daily reports of the fear and uncertainty they face. I realized we had to do something. Comics have a power to reach massive audiences and that’s a powerful thing. As more and more creators join our cause I believe we can raise a lot of money to help. This transcends any genre, medium, or publisher. This need is bigger than anything our world has ever faced, and we truly believe that together we can make a difference.”
When I got a look at IDW’s first remastered issue of Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta’s Starstruck, I immediately wanted to talk to Lee about the story’s return. In doing the email interview, I wanted to get an idea of the creative processes involved (for the comic, as well as related theater and audio productions) and some of her thoughts regarding the remastering of the work. My thanks to Lee for her insight, as well as IDW Special Projects Editor Scott Dunbier and IDW’s AnnaMaria White for helping make this interview possible.
Tim O’Shea: Back in the 1980s when you and Kaluta originally developed this comic, it seems like you were among the first to attempt a multimedia concept–You were able to take a play and adapt it to a comic book. How challenging was it to pull off, given that you were taking comics into seemingly uncharted territory?
Elaine Lee: I guess we weren’t really thinking about taking comics into uncharted territory. We were just thinking about telling the story we wanted to tell and having a good time doing it!
We never tried to adapt the actual play. The action of the play takes place on two ships out in space, over maybe a day’s time. Not enough scope for a comic series. And any play has much more dialogue than even the wordiest comic, so it wouldn’t translate very well. But in the play, each character had a big monologue, wherein he or she described events that happened in his or her past. We first envisioned Starstruck as a series of vignettes that related these stories from the characters’ pasts. Later, we would add the material that linked all these events together.
If Michael and I were influenced by anyone working in comics, it would’ve been the European artists, like Moebius and Enki Bilal, whose work was appearing in Heavy Metal at the time. And in fact, Starstruck was published in Europe before it was published here in the States, serialized in magazines in France and Spain. They weren’t publishing much unusual material in the US at the time. But we always had an American sensibility and both the play and the comic were greatly influenced by old American science fiction movies and TV series, the stuff that came out between the forties and the sixties, from the old Buck Rogers serials and Rocky Jones Space Ranger, to Star Trek and Lost in Space, Queen of Outer Space and Barbarella. We lifted themes, archetypes and settings from classic sci-fi and tried to drop into them flawed characters with real human problems.