How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Responding to a recent assertion by a DC Comics representative that “We’re all good” with the late Bill Finger and his family, the granddaughter of Batman’s uncredited co-creator has made it clear that’s not the case.
“I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves,” Athena Finger said in a statement.
Characterized by biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman as “the dominant creative force” behind Batman, Bill Finger is widely acknowledged with such contributions as the Batmobile, the Batcave, the name Gotham City, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon, the basic look of the Dark Knight’s costume, and numerous villains and supporting players. However, because of the contract Bob Kane negotiated with what would become DC Comics, only he receives official credit for the creation of Batman and most of those foundational elements.
Long a sore spot with fans and creators alike, the matter surfaced again last month at WonderCon Anaheim, when participants on a Batman panel were asked their thoughts about Finger not receiving “created by” credit. Larry Ganem, DC’s talent relations director, replied, “We cherish what Bill Finger did, and his contribution to creating Batman. We’re all good with Finger and his family.”
Publishing | ICv2 posts a three-part interview with IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams that covers a multitude of subjects, including the company’s digital strategy, the Artists Editions, news that Scholastic has picked up its My Little Pony comics, and that the publisher’s book sales are up, even though Borders is gone: “The book market used to make me crazy on this returnable basis basically forever. That was never a sustainable business model. Where we are today is we are able to sell product in a reasonable way so that the bookstores get a chance to sell the product and we don’t get these giant returns. ” [ICv2]
Piracy | Earlier this year, the Chinese Internet company Tencent inked a deal with Shueisha, the publisher of Shonen Jump and thus the licensor of some of the most popular manga in the world. One consequence of this deal has just hit home with the Chinese reading public: Scanlations are disappearing from the web, and fans are not happy. [Kotaku]
Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]
Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]
According to SF Weekly, the pieces dating back to the turn of the 20th century include just one of Robinson’s own comics, a 1954 installment of Jet Scott, a sci-fi strip about an adventurer with the Office of Scientifact who’s called in to tackle strange threats. Among the highlights of the donation are Wash Tubbs by Roy Crane, Li’l Abner by Al Capp, Baron Bean by George Herriman, Pogo by Walt Kelly and two pieces by Winsor McCay, including a hand-painted installment of Dream of the Rarebit Fiend.
Curator Andrew Farago, who became friends with Robinson and his family, said those are the first McCay originals to be included in the museum’s permanent collection.
Robinson, who co-created Robin and the Joker, and later became widely respected for his work has a comics historian and creators’ rights advocate, was presented with the Cartoon Art Museum’s lifetime achievement award in 2011.
Creators | Dan Parent discusses an upcoming Archie storyline that will bring Valerie Brown from Josie and the Pussycats to Riverdale, causing sparks to once again fly: “The fans can expect the next step in what I think is the most romantic story in Archie history. The chemistry between Archie and Valerie was hot the first time they got together, and now you’ve really got to see it simmer, all the way from the rekindling of their romance to getting much more serious than we’ve seen before.” [USA Today]
Editorial cartoons | Cartoonist Jeff Stahler has resigned from The Columbus Dispatch following accusations that he lifted ideas from other cartoons, including one that ran in The New Yorker. [Poynter]
“What struck me in all the phone interviews was what a small fraction of Jerry’s life was getting covered. I don’t think most people realize how politically involved he was in issues of Free Speech (especially that of cartoonists) in countries where they don’t cotton to any kind of dissent. I don’t think most folks know how involved he was in the mid-seventies campaign to establish a credit line and pensions for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster on Superman. Most folks know that Neal Adams spearheaded that campaign and his efforts were vital in making Time-Warner realize that a horrendous situation had to be rectified and put right. Not to take anything away from Neal but it was Jerry Robinson who negotiated with senior Time-Warner execs of behalf of Siegel and Shuster. It was Jerry who closed the deal.”
Legal | Cartoonist Susie Cagle, who was arrested last month while covering Occupy Oakland, says she has been cleared of all charges by the Oakland Police Department. The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to the Oakland police condemning the arrest, which ultimately assisted in getting the charges dropped. The letter called out the department’s crowd management policy, which says, “Even after a dispersal order has been given, clearly identified media shall be permitted to carry out their professional duties in any area where arrests are being made, unless their presence would unduly interfere with the enforcement action.” [Fishbowl LA]
Conventions | San Diego City Council approved a plan to have San Diego hotels pay for a $520 million convention center expansion. The plan moves to a second hearing in January and requires a vote of two-thirds of the hotels that cast ballots for approval. [NBC San Diego]
Carl Barks’ 1974 painting “The Sport of Tycoons,” which features the iconic image of Scrooge McDuck swimming in his gold-filled vault, sold at auction last week for a record $262,900.
The painting is based on Barks’ often-reprinted 1952 tale “Only a Poor Old Man,” the first story in which Scrooge was the main character (in which, while swimming in his money bin, he says, “I love to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head!”). “The Sport of Tycoons” debuted in print in 1981’s The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck by Carl Barks.
The piece, part of the Kerby Confer Collection, was accompanied by the Heritage Auctions sales of two other Barks originals — “Sheriff of Bullet Valley” ($107,550), and “McDuck of Duckburg” ($101,575).
The auction also saw Jerry Robinson’s original cover art for 1942’s Detective Comics #67, the first Penguin cover, fetch $239,000, which Heritage dubs the second-highest price for a piece of American comic-book art.
Art | Jerry Robinson’s cover artwork from Detective Comics #67 is expected to bring in more than $300,000 when it goes up for auction Nov. 15. “Robinson penciled and inked this cover and the detail of his art is amazing close-up,” said Todd Hignite, consignment director for Comic Art at Heritage Auctions, “particularly his shading lines on Batman and Robin, and on the feathery details of the ostrich being straddled by that bird-of-prey, the Penguin.” [Art Daily]
Business | Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and Vuguru, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s independent studio, are partnering to produce “original digital content.” [press release]
Comics | Darryl Ayo has a small manifesto about comics that makes a lot of sense: “Things that don’t make sense in North American comics: 1) comics that exist after their creators have ceased to. 2) these comics’ existence continues despite minimal effort to applicable to contemporary culture. Things that make perfect sense in North American comics: people’s general lack of interest in comics.” He points out a number of reasons why the comics audience is small and challenges creators and publishers to “Do better.” One point he makes that is rarely mentioned: The critical importance of editors. [Comix Cube]
Comic Book Comics, by Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente, chronicles the history of comics in comic-book form. Their latest story, posted in full at their blog, is a short history of copyright grabs by comics publishers, featuring Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Jack Kirby and Joker creator Jerry Robinson make appearances as well. It’s interesting history and a painless way to learn a bit about copyright law and its pitfalls.
(Via Comics Worth Reading.)
Legal | The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is resurrecting a revised bill to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. An earlier version of the controversial proposal was voted down in mid-June. The new bill removes vague defining terms like “nonexistent youth” and reportedly avoids references to “characters younger than 18,” increasing the likelihood that the proposed legislation will pass. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | As the small independent retail chain Joseph-Beth Booksellers files for bankruptcy protection, its president warns of even tougher times ahead for bookstores. “I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” Neil Van Uum says. [Lexington Herald-Leader, via ICv2.com]
Like those mothers of legend who used to toss entire comics collections in the trash, comics artists used to throw away their original art, too, with little regard for its future worth. Back in the day, original comic art wasn’t considered valuable—it was the printed item that mattered.
Fortunately, Jerry Robinson, the creator of The Joker, had a bit more foresight. Back in 1942, he rescued the art for a couple of covers from the trash. One is his own work, Detective Comics No. 69,
which featured the first appearance of The Joker, (apparently not—as our commenters noted) and the other is an equally iconic Superman cover by Fred Ray, a motif that came to be known as “The Superman Patriotic Shield,” according to The New York Post. Now he is selling both, via the online auction site ComicConnect.com. While the Post estimates the two will bring in $1.4 million, ComicConnect owner Stephen Fishler is a bit more restrained, estimating about $1 million. Said Robinson,
So obviously this was a very hard decision, they’re going to be very hard to part with — they were a big part of my youth, but I’m 88 now. I think it’s time to see that they get into the proper hands to be preserved. I’m hoping whomever buys them will donate them to the Library of Congress or the Smithsonian.
While he would like to have made that donation himself, Robinson said he was selling the covers so his family would be financially secure. If you’re interested, bidding starts today at noon, Eastern Time.
Publishing | John Jackson Miller delves into September’s grim direct-market sales figures and discovers a (relative) bright spot: Sales of lower-tier titles — those that don’t crack Diamond’s Top 300 — appear to be increasing, to record levels. “How do we know?” Miller writes. “Believe it or not, a record for high sales was actually set in September. The 300th place comic book, Boom’s Farscape #11, sold more copies to retailers in September than in any month since November 1996: 4,702 copies. That’s a record for the period following Marvel’s return to Diamond. This bellwether tells us about the shape of the market, and how prolific the major and middle-tier publishers are; when many of their titles are being released and reordered, higher-volume titles tend to push farther into the list.”
However, the higher you go on the list, the worse things look: “The average comic book in the Top 25 is selling more poorly in 2010 than in 2003. At the very top of the chart, 2010’s average top-sellers are about 25% off what the best-sellers of 2003 were doing.” [The Comichron]
Publishing | Retail news and analysis site ICv2 concludes its two-part interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who addresses the struggle between “tightly interwoven continuity” and accessible comics: “… You run the constant battle of people saying ‘we need one-shots for people to jump on to,’ but the ordering trends don’t play to that a lot. The ordering trends play to ‘is this tied to an event.’ It was very evident with DC’s Brightest Day and Darkest Night orders. It was very evident during Civil War. So you hear that said a lot but most of the sales are very contradictory to those desires. Making books as easily entered into as possible is something we try to pay close attention to. I’m not going to deny that we don’t get lost in our own soup sometimes which is the nature of serialized story-telling. It’s hard to keep the revenue numbers without tying in books to leverage off the big books.” [ICv2.com]
As you may have guessed, we’re big fans of the Logo Studies feature letterer Todd Klein runs over on his blog, where he looks at various comic book logos and how they evolved over the years. Yesterday he shared a bit of history about the original Batman logo from the 1940s, which was designed by comics legend Jerry Robinson.
“One of the things I expected when I started doing my Logo Studies was that I would never be able to find out for sure, or at all, who designed many of the original comics logos from the 1940s,” Klein wrote on his blog. “Today I proved that expectation wrong when I spoke to Jerry Robinson, one of the first Batman artists, and involved with the character almost from the beginning.”
Klein had originally gotten in touch with Robinson to ask about the Robin logo that appeared on the Boy Wonder’s first appearance, and Robinson told Klein he also designed the original Batman logo, seen above.