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The U.S. Supreme Court will debate in a private conference on May 15 whether to weigh in on the five-year copyright battle between Jack Kirby’s heirs and Marvel/Disney, Deadline reports.
The odds are against the artist’s children, as the Supreme Court receives about 10,000 petitions each year, but hears oral arguments in only about 75 to 80 of those cases. However, if the Justices decide to take up the case, oral argument will be scheduled later this month for the court’s next session.
The Kirby family filed a petition with the high court on March 21 arguing “it is beyond dispute” that the artist’s Marvel output between 1959 and 1963 was not produced as “work for hire” and, therefore, is subject to a clause in the U.S. Copyright Act that permits authors and their heirs to reclaim rights transferred before 1978.
That appeal followed an August decision by the Second Circuit upholding a 2011 ruling that Kirby’s Marvel works were indeed made at the publisher’s “instance and expense” and, therefore, fell under “work for hire.” As such, the courts found, the 45 copyright-termination notices the artist’s heirs filed in 2009 for such characters as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk were invalid.
Digital comics | In today’s Amazon-acquires-comiXology article, Rachel Edidin deflates much of the hype, and the panic, surrounding the deal, pointing out that comics distribution is already a monopoly, large corporations already run the comics market, and comics have been available on Kindle all along: “Is the concern [...] a distribution monopoly? If so, the direct market is in no position to criticize: over the last 15 years, Diamond Comics Distributors has consumed almost all independent print distribution in comics, and dictates practices and policy to retailers and publishers alike. The idea that print comics are somehow more independent than their digital cousins — or a scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against evil corporate profiteers — is frankly ridiculous.” [Wired]
Awards | Michael Cavna talks with Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer about winning the Pulitzer Prize in cartooning. [Comic Riffs]
Claiming an appeals court “unconstitutionally appropriated” Jack Kirby’s copyrights and gave them to Marvel, the late artist’s heirs have taken their fight with the comics publisher to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a petition filed March 21, and first reported by Law 360, Kirby’s children argue “it is beyond dispute” that the artist’s Marvel work between 1959 and 1963 was not produced as “work for hire” and, therefore, is subject to a clause in the U.S. Copyright Act that permits authors and their heirs to reclaim copyrights transferred before 1978.
The appeal follows an August decision by the Second Circuit upholding a 2011 ruling that Kirby’s Marvel works were indeed made at the “instance and expense” — that term plays a significant role in the heirs’ petition — with the publisher assigning and approving projects and paying a page rate; in short, they were “work for hire.” As such, the courts found, the 45 copyright-termination notices the artist’s heirs filed in 2009 for such characters as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Hulk were invalid.
Crime | Police in St. Charles, Missouri, have arrested 24-year-old Adam Radigan and charged him in the Monday-morning robbery of a comic store employee. The robbery occurred in the parking lot as the employee walked out of the Fantasy Shop with a bank bag that contained $26 in coins. The suspect allegedly indicated he had a gun and demanded the bag; after the employee handed it over, fled on foot. Nearby schools were briefly locked down after the incident. [The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, KDSK]
Comics | “Seattle and the Northwest have carved a lasting niche in the comics world by applying the same traits to cartoons that we apply to music — lo-fi, provocative and introspective. Our comics are often funny as in peculiar, not necessarily funny as in laugh-out-loud, our heroes bumbling rather than swashbuckling”: Tyrone Beason looks at Seattle’s thriving alt-comics scene, and talks with Peter Bagge, Ellen Forney, Tom Van Deusen and the organizers of the Short Run Comix and Arts Festival. [The Seattle Times]
Aw yeah! In my household, the best news from DC’s June solicitations is the six-issue Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse miniseries. I showed the cover to my 5-year-old and she was crestfallen to learn it didn’t come out for another three months. At least she can fill the time reading the other paperbacks (and Superman Family Adventures) and watching Frozen on an endless loop.
I may also have to get the Li’l Gotham figures, although at $13 a pop they are pretty pricey. Perhaps just Batman and Robin.
Oh, there’s more? What could it be …?
LET’S GO PLACES
The solicitation for Futures End #6 — advertising Ray Palmer, Frankenstein and Amethyst’s trip into the Phantom Zone — makes me irrationally optimistic about the series generally. I think the New 52 needs this series (or something like it) to present a coherent shared universe, because for the past two and a half years it’s been a clash of disparate styles and an array of changes without much to pull it all together. If Futures End can manage a good-sized, eclectic cast, and convince readers they’re all able to function in the same basic environment, that’ll go a long way towards giving the superhero books common ground.
Fred Guardineer’s cover for Action Comics #15 (dated August 1939), on the fifth cover appearance of the Man of Steel, depicts the superhero aiding a distressed U.S. submarine on the ocean floor. It was purchased by Richard Evans of Bedrock City Comic Company in Houston.
“Guardineer’s cover is the earliest Superman cover art in existence, and an absolute treasure of comics history,” Ed Jaster, senior vice president of Heritage Auctions, said in a statement. “A price like this shows just how much collectors covet a rarity like this.”
A prolific Golden Age writer and artist, Guardineer created Zatara, whose first appearance in Action Comics #1 was overshadowed by the debut of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman.
The Feb. 20-22 auction in New York City featured more than 1,200 lots, including the second part of the Don and Maggie Thompson collection. Highlights included: a near-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, which sold for $191,200; Jack Kirby and Frank Giacola’s original cover art for Tales of Suspense #84, which fetched$167,300; and R. Crumb’s original art for the three-page story “Ducks Yas Yas” from Zap Comix #0, which went for $101,575.
Although romance comics are a rarity nowadays, at least in the North American market, there was a time when they were a major force on newsstands, as superhero titles faded in the aftermath of World War II and gave way to other genres: Sweathearts, Heart Throbs, My Life, Love Confessions, Just Married, to name only a few of the series. However, it all began with Young Romance, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Simon’s granddaughter Megan Margulies provides a nice reminder that her “Daddy Joe” and his longtime collaborator effectively created an entire genre with her Cigar Joe Designs Etsy store, which offers, among other items, posters, iPhone cases and T-shirts featuring art from some of those classic comics.
Even if those kinds of products aren’t up your alley, the Cigar Joe Designs Facebook page is a terrific resource for old Simon and Kirby work and photos.
One of Jack Kirby’s less-remembered sci-fi creations, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, will be revived in July with a Dynamite Entertainment series by writer Joe Casey and a lineup of artists that includes Farel Dalrymple, Nathan Fox, Michel Fiffe, Jim Rugg and Jim Mahfood.
Dynamite previously published the six-issue miniseries Jack Kirby: Genesis — Captain Victory in 2011-2012.
Because it’s the day after Christmas, and I don’t want to write 1,500 words about Forever Evil and its Justice League tie-in — except to say they both felt a lot like stereotypical Lost, and not necessarily in a good way — here’s a stocking’s worth of number-based observations about DC past and present.
Twelve Crisis issues: I talk a lot about 1984-85′s Crisis on Infinite Earths, mostly because it so completely transformed not just DC’s shared-universe continuity, but its publishing philosophy. On its merits, Crisis is a mixed bag, pairing stunning visuals with a sometimes-flabby narrative. However, despite its sprawl, COIE ended up with a definite structure. The first four issues deal with a mysterious antimatter onslaught which destroys whole universes, apparently including the familiar Earth-One and Earth-Two. The final page of Issue 4 is nothing but black “smoke” clearing away, revealing blank white space. Issues 5 and 6 offer vignettes on the five surviving universes, as time periods intersect in “warp zones” and ordinary people see multiversal counterparts of departed loved ones. Issues 7 and 8 are, to put it bluntly, the Big Death issues, with Supergirl saving her cousin from the Anti-Monitor and the Barry Allen Flash destroying Anti-M’s latest doomsday weapon. Issues 9 and 10 feature the “Villain War” and a two-pronged time-travel assault on Anti-M’s efforts. That ends with a shattered, otherwise “blank” comics panel, as the Spectre wrestles Anti-M for control of history itself — and issues 11 and 12 feature the heroes of a new, singular universe fighting a final battle against the Anti-Monitor. Today’s decompressed (and sometimes decentralized) Big Events focus more on character moments and slow burns, and more often than not they don’t have to streamline fifty years of continuity, but Crisis remains a model for just how big an Event can be.
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The Motley Fool marks the 50th anniversary of the Avengers with an article that’s part history lesson, part early celebration of Disney’s potential box-office haul from films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron (it is a financial website, after all). But the interesting part of the piece is a bit of trivia I’d never read before: that The Avengers #1 was thrown into production only because of a major delay on Daredevil #1.
While the article doesn’t provide a source, that tidbit may have come from Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, who explained in 2011 that the company planned to follow The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in 1963 with The X-Men and Daredevil. However, between his day job and his drinking problem, artist Bill Everett fell far, far behind on Daredevil #1, leaving Marvel with a printing deadline but no comic.
“In those days, you booked print time way ahead of time — and if your book wasn’t ready, you paid for the printing time anyway,” Brevoort wrote.
We’ve written about the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center project a few times before, most recently a week ago when we mentioned it was finally opening a physical presence, in the form of a pop-up in the artist’s native Lower East Side Manhattan called “Prototype: Alpha.” That name strikes me in itself as being a particularly Kirby-esque flourish.
The location opened Monday, and the last few days we finally saw tantalizing glimpses of what to expect on the museum’s walls leaking out via social media (via the museum’s Facebook page and the What if Kirby Twitter account). Here are three behind-the-scenes shots of work being installed into the Delancey Street space:
The Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, which has been without a physical home since its founding in 2005, will materialize next week — if only for seven days — on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the neighborhood where the artist was born and raised.
According to the museum, its temporary home at 178 Delancey Street was made possible through a successful Kickstarter campaign launched by Made in the Lower East Side, an organization dedicated to transforming unused storefronts into “vibrant community hubs” on a short-term basis.
With just nine words — “It is hereby ordered that the petition is denied” — the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday seemingly ended a four-year effort by the children of Jack Kirby to gain a copyright stake in many of the characters their father created or co-created for Marvel.
As Deadline reports, the Kirby heirs had petitioned for rehearing, either before a panel of the Second Circuit or the full bench of judges, of whether they had the right to file 45 copyright-termination notices in 2009 for some of Marvel’s best-known, and most lucrative, characters, including the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.
Quickly responding to those notices, Marvel (later joined by then-new parent company Disney) sued to invalidate the heirs’ claims, arguing that Kirby’s creations for the publisher were work for hire, made at the company’s direction and expense, and therefore weren’t eligible for copyright termination. A federal judge agreed, ruling in July 2011 that, as works for hire, the copyrights to those characters belong to Marvel.
The Kirby family appealed, but in August 2013 a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, reaffirming that the heirs had no termination rights. The judges also upheld the lower court’s exclusion of expert testimony offered by John Morrow and Mark Evanier on behalf of the Kirby heirs, agreeing that “their reports are by and large undergirded by hearsay statements, made by freelance artists in both formal and informal settings, concerning Marvel’s general practices towards its artists during the relevant time period.”
Digital comics | IDW Publishing released its first batch of digital comics on the motion-comics platform Madefire this week. The selection includes partially animated My Little Pony, Star Trek and Transformers comics, which sell for $1.99 each. Jeff Webber, IDW’s vice president of digital publishing, noted that because Madefire has a partnership with DeviantArt, the books are being exposed to “an incredibly broad network of illustration fans.” To commemorate My Little Pony’s Madefire debut, Dave Gibbons drew the image at right “to show that Friendship IS Magic!” `[Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka, who chronicled life in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp in his book Camp II, Block 211, has died at the age of 87. , Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Matsuoka was a teenager when his family was sent to internment camps in Salinas, California, and then Poston. After leaving the camp he was drafted and served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in occupied Japan. He went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for many years. Camp II, Block 211 was based on sketches he did while living in the camps and set aside for many years; his mother found them and encouraged him to share them with the public. They were put on exhibit in San Francisco and then collected into the book, which was first published in 1974. A revised edition was released in 2003. [The Rafu Shimpo]
“If you’re an aggressive individual and you want to make this your field — and there is no school. You make your own school. You make your school. I say that you borrow arms and legs and heads and necks and posteriors from anybody you can. In comics, which is a peculiar field, every man — every artist — is the other artist’s teacher. There’s absolutely no school for it. People can teach you the mechanics of it, which is good. I can see a good reason for that. But drawing a good figure does not make you a good artist. I can name you 10 men, right off the bat, who draw better than I do. But I don’t think their work gets as much response as mine. I can’t think of a better man to draw Dick Tracy than Chester Gould, who certainly is no match for Leonardo Da Vinci. But Chester Gould told the story of Dick Tracy. He told the story of Dick Tracy the way it should have been told. No other guy could have done it. It’s not in the draftsmanship, it’s in the man.
Like I say, a tool is dead. A brush is a dead object. It’s in the man. If you want to do, you do it. If you think a man draws the type of hands that you want to draw, steal ‘em. Take those hands.