No matter how hard they try, Disney and Marvel can’t seem to shake the specter of Stan Lee Media: Just two months after a federal judge dismissed a multibillion lawsuit against Disney for ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee, the failed dot-com has emerged in another, seemingly unrelated dispute.
In September, Disney, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-bases American Music Theatre, saying it violated copyrights and trademarks by using elements of Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in its musical revue Broadway: Now and Forever (Disney and Mackintosh jointly hold the copyright to the Mary Poppins stage production).
On Monday the theater responded with an eye-opening claim of its own: that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim states, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.
Earlier this year, rock-star astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson calculated the weight of Thor’s hammer at 4.5 quadrillion pounds — roughly the same as 300 billion elephants — only for his comic-book knowledge to be called into question by another scientist, who pointed out that Mjolnir is forged out of fictional metal Uru and not neutron-star matter.
And now the hammer is in the scientific spotlight once again, but not for its weight or composition, but rather for its violation of the laws of physics.
As noticed by CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding, the first cover to the freshly announced new Ms. Marvel series, illustrated by Sara Pichelli, appears to be an homage to Gary Frank’s cover to debut issue of another comic starring a teenage girl hero, 1996′s Supergirl #1 — from the angle to the blank background to the juxtaposition of casual wear with superhero iconography.
That volume of Supergirl lasted 80 issues, so it could be a good portent for the Ms. Marvel book, which features a Muslim teenager named Kamala Khan stepping into the title role, in a series written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona.
LEGO and Marvel are re-teaming for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload, an online series launching today on Disney.com, the Disney YouTube channel and the Roku and Xbox Live TV apps. All 10 episodes will premiere simultaneously.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series finds Loki discovering “a way to put the ‘super’ in super-villain” as he assembles an army to conquer Earth, leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s most popular heroes to face old foes who suddenly possess new powers.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the X-Men, as well as the X-Men: Battle of the Atom crossover, WeLoveFine has unveiled an informational graphic by Leigh Wortley featuring characters from every era of Marvel’s mutant saga, from 1963 to the present. There are 150 represented, but considering the size of the X-universe, those probably aren’t all of them.
It’s the Avengers’ 50th anniversary, and Marvel has a big plan for Avengers #24.NOW, also known as Avengers #1 for the purposes of All-New Marvel NOW! (It’s confusing, I know. Just go with it.). To celebrate the milestone in December, the publisher plans to sell a special polybagged edition of Avengers #24.NOW and bundle it with a “Avengers 50th Anniversary Mega Fold-Out Poster” that’s more than 6 feet wide. For the curious, that’s about 11 comic pages stacked end to end.
Illustrated by Daniel Acuna, the poster features Earth’s Mightiest Heroes from across the team’s 50 years, including mainstays like Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, newer additions like Wolverine, Spider-Man and the Thing, and even members of the Dark Avengers, like Ares.
See the full poster below. Avengers #24.NOW goes on sale Dec. 14.
In the spirit of Halloween and awesomeness, Tumblr user David J. Prokopetz commissioned some of the most intriguing crossover pieces to date: Wolverine as Disney Princesses.
Indeed, Prokopetz has already posted 14 different images of the best there is at what he does — and apparently, what he does is wear the crap out of a dress. While some of the drawings are clearly meant to evoke specific Disney Princesses, many are simply what Wolverine would look like were he designed from the top-down as a Disney princess. Perhaps the best one comes from Larbesta, who incorporates aspects of Wolverine’s costume and accentuates it with a pretty pink parasol.
Marvel, take note: these would be some of the best variant covers you could ask for during Halloween 2014. Seriously.
Be sure to check out the rest of Wolverine is the Best Disney Princess on Prokopetz’s blog.
Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]
Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]
Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2′s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]
Disney, which has long fought against the expansion of casinos in Florida, is bringing to an end some licensing deals that have been viewed as hypocritical to that anti-gambling stance: slot machines, online slots and lottery tickets featuring Marvel and Star Wars characters.
The New York Times reports the announcement, made over the weekend, comes as the Florida legislature again prepares to address whether Las Vegas-style casino resorts should be permitted to open in the state. The Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista attracts 52.5 million visitors annually; the entertainment giant argues that gambling hurts the state’s family-friendly brand.
Although Disney is so opposed to gambling that it doesn’t even casinos on its cruise ships — that’s an oddity in the industry — Marvel continued to sign slot machine agreements after it was purchased by the corporation in 2009 for $4.6 billion. But a Marvel spokeswoman told The Times the last deal was made two years ago, and the company has “discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney.” Those that remain will be allowed to expire.
Marvel heroes like Iron Man and the Avengers have appeared on scratch-off lottery tickets in several states, but the company said there are no active licensing deals.
A spokeswoman for Walt Disney World attributed the lag to the complexities of aligning corporate policies following a merger.
Awards | Jamie Smart’s Fish-Head Steve has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the first comic to make the list in the six-year history of the award. The prize recognizes the funniest book for children in two age categories, and the final judges will be 200 children from schools around the United Kingdom. [Forbidden Planet]
Comics | Eric Margolis reports on the difficulties U.K. creator Darren Cullen had in getting his Kickstarter-funded comic (Don’t) Join the Army printed. The format was unusual, so some shops simply couldn’t do it, but printers also took exception to the comic itself, which was an “anti-recruitment leaflet” satirizing the British army. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]
Kieron Gillen had to remind me to be angry. I read through my comics stash for the week, feeling very proud of myself and then went on about my day, wondering what I was going to be writing for you, Dear Reader (hi, Mom!). Then I browse through Twitter to see this posted by the writer: “You know, after yesterday with Iron Man 17 and YA11, I’d have expected my @s to be worse, but people are being really nice. Thanks!”
Being really nice? Why shouldn’t they? What should I be mad at?! Nothing happened that was all that shocking in Young Avengers, as long as you know who Loki is and that Loki: Agent of Asgard is debuting in February, so it’s just putting two and two together. That couldn’t be the reason for torches and pitchforks. Then I remembered Iron Man #17 and still felt no need to reach for my oil-soaked rags and farming tools. There’s a twist to be sure, and a fairly large change to Tony Stark’s tried and true origin, but is the cover right? Is this really “The shocking conclusion that will change the world of Iron Man forever”?
Not exactly. Read on and find out why!
WARNING: Oh yeah, big spoilers for the current run on Iron Man! Huge, massive spoilers. Click no further if you haven’t read Iron Man #17! But if you have (or simply love spoilers), please do read on!
Loki has undergone several changes over the past several years, returning in a female body after Ragnarok, reincarnating in the form of a boy (the fan-favorite “Kid Loki”) and then, in this week’s Young Avengers #11 — OK, we won’t spoil it for you, but Marvel’s recent announcement of Loki: Agent of Asgard tells you all you need to know.
Well, maybe not all you need to know.
Responding on his blog to a fan’s questions, writer Al Ewing reveals that in the new series the god of mischief’s gender and sexuality will be fluid. “Yes, Loki is bi and I’ll be touching on that,” he wrote last night. “He’ll shift between genders occasionally as well.”
Neither of those will be particularly surprising to anyone familiar with Norse mythology, where the shape-shifting Loki is frequently viewed, in modern terms, as transgender and bisexual.
Apparently peppered with even more Loki questions, Ewing followed up this morning with a moratorium titled “Enough Loki For Now”: “I’m not The Loki Guy until February, and right now I feel like I’m stepping on toes, so I’m going to stop talking about Loki outside of interviews until early January. After that, I’ll be as available as before. [...] So, how about those Mighty Avengers, huh?”
Graphic novels | France 24 examines the Thursday release of Asterix and the Picts — the first album by new creative team Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad — from a political perspective, noting that the story, in which Asterix and Obelix journey from ancient Gaul to Iron Age Scotland, has already become part of the current debate about Scottish independence. [France 24]
Creators | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who spent a night in police custody last week on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance,” spoke to the press this week. Liming, who has more than 300,000 followers on his microblog account, first ran into trouble two years ago for one of his cartoons, but police told him that China has freedom of speech and he could continue drawing. Nonetheless, another of his cartoons, depicting Winnie the Pooh (a frequent cartoon stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping) kicking a football was deleted and suppressed by censors. “For them, drawing leaders in cartoon form is a big taboo,” the cartoonist said. “I think the controls on the Internet are too harsh. They have no sense of humor. They can’t accept any ridicule.” [Reuters]
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.”