"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Libraries | Digital media distributor Midwest Tape has announced a new e-book and comics service for libraries, which will be accessed via its hoopla platform. Unlike the widely used Overdrive, the service will allow multiple checkouts for a single book, rather than limiting checkouts to one user at a time. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | The trial began Tuesday for Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani on charges of spreading propaganda and insulting members of parliament, stemming from a cartoon she posted on Facebook depicting politicians as monkeys and other animals. Farghadani has been an activist in other ways as well, meeting with the families of people killed during the 2009 presidential elections. She was arrested last August and sent to prison, released, and then arrested again after posting a video online describing beatings by prison guards. She has been in solitary confinement since January and suffered a heart attack in February, after being on a hunger strike for three weeks. [The Washington Post]
“Over the years, when he heard somebody liked other artists more than his work, he was really non-competitive. The thing, though, that I think a lot of people never got about Jack was that Jack wasn’t really competitive with most other comic book artists, because in his mind, they had a different job description. When John Buscema sat down to draw an issue of Fantastic Four — and, actually, nothing I’m about to say is knocking John Buscema in any way, or any of the artists I’m going to mention here — his goal was to do an issue of the Fantastic Four. When Jack sat down to do an issue of Fantastic Four, in his mind his job description was to create a new universe, three spinoffs and take comics to another level.”
Note: The original version of this post misattributed the comment. It’s been edited to correct that, and to provide a fuller quote.
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, gazes into his crystal ball and predicts some new wrinkles to the convention scene this year, including more sophisticated use of technology: “New innovations such as beacons and near-field communications now enable real-time integration between digital content and the event itself in real time. In English, this means attendees can get instant notifications of nearby items that fit their specific interests, which could help navigate confusing and noisy exhibit halls.” And they could be used for real-time gaming as well. [ICv2]
Awards | Roz Chast has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Autobiography for her graphic novel Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Chast’s tale of taking care of her parents in their declining years seems to be one of those books that crosses the usual boundaries, winning recognition not only in comics circles but in general book awards such as the Kirkus Awards and the National Book Awards. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | ICv2 continues its focus on manga with a profile of Boston’s Comicopia, where they stock a lot of manga (4,000 volumes) and the staff really understands it. Most of the manga is simply shelved by title, reflecting the fact that readers often cross the target demographics (i.e. a lot of girls read Shonen Jump), but Comicopia also has sections for yaoi, all-ages manga, and “Manga for People that Don’t Like Manga.” [ICv2]
Legal | Illustrator Greg Theakston tells The Comics Journal that during his Christmas vacation, he plans to file a police complaint against the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, alleging it stole about 3,000 photocopies of Kirby’s pencil work. Theakston gave the photocopies to the museum, but he contends it was intended to be a loan, while the museum says it was an outright donation. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Theakston has been threatening legal action since August. [The Comics Journal]
Creators | Paul Tumey posts a charming series of letters from Pogo creator Walt Kelly to a young pen pal (who had a pet alligator named Albert), along with plenty of backstory. [The Comics Journal]
If you were to make a list of the greatest gadgets dreamed up by Jack Kirby, the Mother Box would undoubtedly rank somewhere near the top. It’s the Ginsu knife of (sentient) comic book tech: it can open and close boom tubes, absorb and project energy blasts, communicate telepathically, control non-sentient machines … It probably even slices and dices.
And soon, you can get one of your very own. All right, DC Collectibles’ Mother Box Prop Replica won’t open any boom tubes, but all the noise and lights will make you think it can. Just check out the video promoting its July release, below.
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
Jack Kirby’s work from the early 1960s on is so indelible and influential that the enormous amount of work he did with Joe Simon in the years prior often seems to take a back seat to his more recent work. As a result, it often appears as though several chapters in our appreciation of one Kirby’s work and career are missing.
Thankfully, effort has been made lately to rectify that perception. Publishers like Titan Books and Fantagraphics have made an attempt to get some of these pre-code comics under readers’ noses.
Now Abrams has jumped into the ring with The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio, a lavish, oversize compendium of stories and art (scanned from the original pages) offered in stores in time for the holiday rush.
By the way, the emphasis in that title should firmly be on the word studio. For while Simon and Kirby’s art is well-represented here, editor Mark Evanier takes considerable care in highlighting stories by other artists who worked for the studio, most notably one Bill Draut, a clean-lined Milton Caniff-styled cartoonist whose work I was heretofore unaware of (other featured artists include Angelo Torres, George Tuska and Mort Meskin).
IDW Publishing will follow Jack Kirby New Gods: Artist’s Edition with a 192-page collection of the legendary creator’s work on Mister Miracle.
Part of the early-1970s “Fourth World” saga that also spanned DC Comics’ Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, The Forever People and New Gods, Mister Miracle introduced not only escape artist Scott Free and the warrior Big Barda, but also the likes of Oberon, Granny Goodness and the Female Furies, who lived well beyond the series’ 18 issues.
All-New X-Men #33, Fantastic Four #12, Inhuman #7 and Wolverine and the X-Men #11 include the phrase “Created By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby,” while Death of Wolverine: Deadpool & Captain America #1 states, “Captain America Created By Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.” The credits pages can be found below.
Added with no fanfare, the credits follow a settlement agreement announced last month, ending the five-year-old fight between Marvel and Kirby’s children over the copyrights to 45 characters created or co-created by their father — among them, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
Neither side has commented publicly on their agreement beyond the joint statement, issued even as the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to decide whether it would consider an appeal by the Kirby heirs: “Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
Conventions | Ahead of New York Comic Con, George Gene Gustines shares producer Michael Uslan’s program from a 1964 comics gathering in New York City; it actually was released after the show, and includes some thoughts on how things could be improved, mainly by shifting the focus from buying and selling comics to bringing in creators so the fans could meet them personally. Nonetheless, Steve Ditko was there, and the list of registered participants included George R.R. Martin. [The New York Times]
Creators | Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about taking Sabrina the Teenage Witch to the dark side in her new series, a Riverdale horror story in the same vein as Afterlife With Archie. In this case, rather than zombies, Aguirre-Sacasa is drawing inspiration from the 1960s film Rosemary’s Baby. [Hero Complex]
Nearly one month after what would’ve been Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday, the announcement was made: Concluding a five-year copyright battle, and decades of contention about credit and compensation, Marvel and the Kirby family revealed Friday that they had reached a settlement, just ahead of a conference to decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case.
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes,” they said in a joint statement, “and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
This is, without question, excellent news, and cause for celebration.
As is typical with settlements, the terms of their agreement aren’t made public, and the one-sentence statement gives no indication of how Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history will be honored.
Those close to Kirby’s family have been reserved with details. In some instances, they don’t appear to know any more than we do.
Law.com has an interesting follow-up to the surprise settlement last week in the five-year-old legal battle between Marvel and Jack Kirby’s heirs, noting that the larger copyright issue at its center remain unresolved.
The children of the legendary artist filed 45 copyright-termination notices in September 2009, seeking to reclaim what they saw as their father’s stake in such Marvel characters as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk. Marvel, joined by its then-new parent company Disney, responded with a lawsuit, setting the dispute down a path that ultimately saw the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirm Kirby’s contributions to the publisher between 1959 and 1963 were “work for hire,” and therefore not subject to copyright termination.
Under a clause in the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act, which extended the duration of copyright, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights transferred before 1978 after a period of 56 years. However, if a work is determined to be “for hire,” meaning it was created by an employee as part of his employment or specially commissioned as part of a larger work, then the publisher (or movie studio, record label, etc.) owns the copyright, and it is not subject to termination.
He’s gathered a Murderers’ Row of great contributors and collaborators to tell the life’s stories of 16 cartoonists, in the most obvious format to do so — comics, of course.
But what, exactly, constitutes a cartoonist? Some of those included might have worked at one point in the field, but made their greatest marks in other areas: people like Walt Disney, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel and Hugh Hefner (whose inclusion will likely be the biggest surprise to more readers; and, make no mistake, the book is made as much for the casual reader as the expert, armchair or otherwise). Others you might not think of as cartoonists at all, like Edward Gorey or Al Hirschfeld.
And changing the world — the whole world?! — is a pretty bold claim, certainly bolder than changing, say, a genre, or a medium or an industry. Certainly Disney and Osamu Tezuka qualify, as do Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who introduced the superhero as we know it, and Jack Kirby, who reimagined the superhero, made countless contributions to the form and who created or co-created characters and concepts that today make billions of dollars.
But what about Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Crumb and the aforementioned Hirschfeld? Are their influences and innovations on equal footing?
In what other medium can a someone get an original work of art made just for them by a creator whose career they’ve followed? Not movies, television, music or fine art, unless you’re a millionaire. But in comics, many of today’s artists are for hire to fans looking to own a piece of their work — and even commission something especially for them. Comics are crazy that way, but that’s a good thing.
It’s nothing new, of course. The idea itself goes back into the roots of fine art, but with the advent of conventions and now the internet it’s available to virtually everyone — with some creators even reaching out to fans to make it happen.
Following the launch of the third annual Kirby4 Heroes campaign, The Hero Initiative has announced of the “Wake Up and Draw” and in-store events planned for Aug. 28 in celebration of Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday.
The nonprofit organization, dedicated to providing a financial assistance to creators in need, has recruited more than 40 artists to “Wake Up and Draw,” with their drawings featured in a special gallery at ComicArtFans.com; they’ll be auctioned later on eBay, with proceeds benefiting The Hero Initiative. Follow #WakeUpAndDraw on Twitter and Instagram on Aug. 28 to see the drawings as they’re posted.
Phil Hester has set out to do a staggering 97 drawings for Kirby’s birthday, which you’ll be able to check out on his Twitter stream. He’ll also have details on where you can purchase the drawings.With Fan Expo Canada kicking off Aug. 28 in Toronto, artists including Kaare Andrews, Greg Land, Joe Prado, Ty Templeton, Jill Thompson, Richard Zajac and more will “Wake Up and Draw” with The Hero Initiative, while in San Francisco, Paolo Rivera will appear at the Cartoon Museum.
For a rundown of in-store appearances, art auctions and retailers who have agreed to donate a portion of sales on Aug. 28 to the organization, visit The Hero Initiative and the Kirby4Heroes Facebook page.