Just as The Avengers arrives in U.S. theaters, a Los Angeles toy company has sued Marvel, accusing the company of committing fraud in a licensing agreement that went sour.
In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court and first reported by Deadline, Box-O-Mania claims owner Maxim Tselevich created a children’s playhouse in 2009 and approached Marvel about branding the product with its superheroes. Early the following year, the two parties allegedly worked out a deal for Box-O-Mania to manufacture Iron Man’s Lair Play Boxes, which would debut in stores in November 2010, coinciding with the release of Iron Man 2 on DVD.
In a clever bit of product placement and cross-promotion, DC Comics is offering “Evolve or Die” T-shirts featuring Travel Foreman’s cover for Animal Man #1 just ahead of the shirt’s debut in the seventh issue of the series. It certainly makes sense within the context of the relaunched title, which opened with a Believer interview in which Buddy Baker was asked how it felt “to have your face plastered on kids’ dorm rooms and T-shirts all over the country.”
The shirts will be available in direct market stores, and at GraffitiDesigns.com, at the end of the month (prices range from $18.95 to $24.95, depending on size). There’s no word yet as to when we should expect that “World’s Best Grandpa” design.
Animal Man #7, by Jeff Lemire and Steve Pugh, arrives March 7.
As the licensing machine revs up for the May 4 premiere of The Avengers, fragrance company JADS International — the company behind such brands as Sulu Pour Homme, Slave Leia Perfume and Shirtless Kirk Cologne — has rolled out scents inspired by Captain America, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury and even Loki. Sorry, Hawkeye, you’re out of luck.
The Avengers Cologne Set boasts “four unique fragrances”: PATRIOT, Mark VII, SMASH! and Worthy; you can probably piece together which name goes with which hero. Loki, meanwhile, gets Mischief Cologne (“Made to Rule”), and Fury has Initiative Cologne (“Activate the Initiative”).
Check out the details below, or on the JADS website.
According to a recent Radiolab Podcast, in order to get a 5.2-percent tax cut on Marvel’s imported action figures, the company’s lawyers successfully argued the toys represent “animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters)” as defined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, a tome that determines tariff classifications for all goods imported into the United States.
Confused? There’s a lot of legalese involved, so here’s the way it breaks down: There’s a distinction between two categories of products imported into the U.S. “Dolls” are toys representing humans, whereas “toys” represent non-humans. While dolls are taxed at 12.8 percent, toys are taxed at just 6.8 percent. Two shrewd trade attorneys noticed the distinction and successfully argued to U.S. Customs officials that Marvel’s licensed products don’t represent human beings.
Thor’s mythic warhammer Mjolnir can level mountains, emit blasts of mystical energy and even detect illusions. But for those swingin’ parties at Avengers mansion, only those who are thirsty shall possess its mighty power.
Early next year Diamond Select Toys will roll out a series of Marvel-based bottle openers, beginning with — you guessed it! — Thor’s hammer, complete with its legendary inscription: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
With it, you’ll be the hit of every party. Well, at least those that don’t feature twist-off caps — or Loki.
If the rapid approach of the holidays has pushed you into panic mode, just relax, because you’ve already found the perfect gift for the superhero-comics fan in your life (or, y’know, yourself): a superhero Snuggie, or as the trademark sticklers prefer to call it, a “Comfy Throw Blanket With Sleeves”!
If you can’t fight crime like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Spider-Man, you can at least look like them — well, kind of? — while remaining toasty in the comfort of your own beige living room, while sitting on your own beige sofa and watching your own (probably) beige television. Hey, I’m only going by the product photos, which do a better job of advertising furniture than selling one-size-fits-all Snuggies Comfy Throw Blankets With Sleeves using two models and Photoshop.
Batman is out of stock, but you can still get Superman ($30.97), Wonder Woman ($25.99) and Spider-Man ($24.95) while supplies last! Act now and you’ll get … I don’t know, peace of mind? The satisfaction of seeing your loved one smile uncomfortably while modeling, and pretending to appreciate, a garish, yet comfy, fleece shroud? Yeah, probably that.
The Courier Mail reports the Australian Trade Marks Office has rejected an application by Brisbane clothing-store owner Gary Charles to register the words “Ghost Rider” following opposition by Marvel.
Charles had first applied to register the trademark in 2009 and, following a threat of legal action by the company, decided to pursue his case. “I thought why should I let them push me around,” he told the newspaper. “But if I’d known the trouble it would be I would have dropped the trademark.”
Solicitor Fiona Brittain, who represented Marvel Characters Inc., argued Charles’ application was made in bad faith, and that he’d previously attempted to register such marks as Red Bull and Army of One. An investigation by her firm allegedly uncovered counterfeit clothing in his store, “including Spider-Man and Marvel Superheroes branded garments.”
The hearing officer was persuaded by the evidence, ruling: “The evidence which the Opponent has provided in respect of the Applicant’s other trade mark applications and registrations, in conjunction with the evidence of the clothing brands available for sale in the Applicant’s shop, is sufficient for me to be satisfied that this application is an example of the Applicant’s standard pattern of behaviour, a pattern which leaves much to be desired as far as commercial fair dealing is concerned.”
Now Charles is left with Ghost Rider-branded denim shorts that, according to the newspaper, he was still trying to “offload” last week. If that’s the case, he should probably expect another letter from Marvel …
“I can tell you for a matter of fact that when I draw work-for-hire stuff, I get into the idea that I’m drawing Wolverine, the guy from the stories I love. I’m continuing his tale. I don’t think that I’m drawing the dude on the underwear. I legitimately love Wolverine as a character. [...] I heard Ed Brubaker say that he treats all of his stuff like it’s creator owned stuff. That’s the only way I can do it. I feel like I’m wasting my life otherwise. Listen, I have seen Wolverine juice boxes. I know that ridiculous thing exists. But the fact that it does, in some way, makes me feel like I’m getting away with something. Like knowing the depraved person I am and that I put all of my energy into drawing this Wolverine story, and then I turn around and see some kid with a Wolverine toy, and that seems subversive to me. I slipped some possibly bad, possibly raunchy art, into that kid’s life. You just get caught up in it while you’re working on it. If you care, it’s really hard to think of it as underwear. And sure, it’s overwhelming and sickening to walk into a Walmart and see nothing but Spider-Man bed sheets. Sometimes, under the right light, that’s kinda cool, though.”
Fresh from its clothing deal with the Dallas Cowboys, Marvel announced this morning that it’s licensing such characters as Spider-Man, The Hulk, Wolverine and Captain America for a line of co-branded apparel for the University of Southern California.
The agreement was made through the Dallas Cowboys subsidiary Silver Star Merchandising, which in May signed a 10-year contract with USC for the exclusive rights to manufacture, license and distribute its sports apparel on campus and at its athletic venues. The Marvel Super Heroes collection will include clothing and hats for infants, children and adults featuring USC colors of cardinal and gold, as well as the school’s logos and Trojan mascot. The line will be available beginning later this month online and at mass and sporting good retailers, and USC bookstores.
You can see two more T-shirt designs at Marvel.com.
It seems like Marvel may have missed an opportunity not releasing Captain America: The First Avenger this weekend, what with the big American-sized holiday coming up on Monday. But then again, the pre-movie merchandising/promotional machine is in full gear just in time for the Fourth of July, so maybe there’s a method to the madness. We’re celebrating the holiday weekend with my three nephews, all under the age of 10, who made their first trip to California yesterday … and what better way to start their weekend off than to get them a Captain America ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins?
The cake is part of a bigger menu that includes a Super-Soldier Sundae, a Hydra Force Sundae and Super-Soldier Swirl ice cream (the flavor of the month). It includes a plastic Captain America that no doubt they’ll be fighting over before the day is over (like I’m gonna let them take it home) and, as you can see above, red, white and blue icing. The thing in the back is a stand-up you can put Cap on after the cake is gone.
Retailing | DC Comics has advised retailers to immediately unplug the $150 Green Lantern Animated Light Up Display after one of the signs caused a small electrical fire Saturday at Rick’s Comic City in Nashville. Other retailers have reported the smell of burning plastic coming from the displays. The publisher will notify stores in the next few days how it will rectify the problem.[ICv2.com]
Retailing | Borders Group lost more than $50 million in February and March as it sought bankruptcy protection and began liquidating 226 stores, a new court filing shows. [The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Mike Searle, former editor of Wizard Entertainment’s defunct InQuest Gamer magazine, reportedly will replace Mike Cotton at Wizard World Digital. Cotton, who had been co-chief pop culture editor, left the company on Friday. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | Forces of Geek rounds up news from last weekend’s Boston Comic Con. [Forces of Geek]
Last month we mentioned MAC Cosmetics’ Wonder Woman collection — Themyscira mascara! Obey Me nail polish! — which is being marketed with stunning art by Michael Allred. Now, just in time for today’s line launch, MAC has debuted a trailer/motion comic — featuring even more Michael Allred art.
If the lovely Michael Allred artwork isn’t enough to pique your interest in MAC Cosmetics’ upcoming Wonder Woman collection, then maybe the names of some of the products will: Emancipation and Athena’s Kiss lip gloss, Army of Amazons and Themyscira mascara, Obey Me nail polish, and Spinning Transformation eyeshadow.
You can view images of the collection, which debuts in the United States on Feb. 10, at Temptalia. Check out another piece of Allred’s promotional art after the break.
Legal | The general affairs committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly has approved the government’s revised amendment to the Youth Healthy Development Ordinance, clearing the way for a vote by the full assembly on Wednesday. The controversial bill would further restrict sexual content in manga, anime and video games. A breakdown of the legislation can be found here. The Mainichi Daily News provides commentary. [Anime News Network]
Legal | In a surprise move, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has decided that the DC superhero- and Wizard of Oz-themed drinking glasses recalled last month because of high lead content aren’t children’s products and, therefore, not subject to recall. [The Associated Press]
Passings | Bluegrass musician and comic-art collector Don Lineberger, 71, died Dec. 5 after being pulled from a house fire in Valdosta, Georgia. Smoke inhalation is believed to be the cause of death. A banjo player who performed with the likes of Bill Monroe, Glen Campbell and Steve Martin, Lineberger was also known for his extensive collection of EC Comics memorabilia. Posters in this thread at the Collectors Society message board are attempting to compile a list of original EC work likely lost in the fire. [The Valdosta Daily Times]
A Utah company has recalled drinking glasses featuring DC Comics superheroes and Wizard of Oz characters after independent testing revealed they contain high levels of lead. Federal regulators have begun an investigation.
The tests, commissioned by The Associated Press, found the glasses contained lead up to 1,000 times the federal limit for children’s products, as well as lesser amounts of the more-toxic heavy metal cadmium. The AP purchased the China-made glasses from Warner Brothers Studios store in Burbank, Calif.
The central issue may be whether the glasses are intended for children or for adults. Salt Lake City-based importer Vandor contends the products are targeted to adult collectors and passed testing for lead. However, a spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told The AP the agency considers the glasses to be children’s products, which are subject to more strict lead limits. The CPSC is collecting samples for its own testing.
In a press release announcing the voluntary recall, Vandor said that less than 10,000 sets of each item have been shipped since their January release.