O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
Mattel hopes it has the power to tamp down claims by writer Donald Glut that he has a copyright stake in the original Masters of the Universe minicomics packaged with the action-figure line three decades ago.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, and first reported by Courthouse News Service, the toymaker seeks a declaration that it is the sole owner of the lucrative multimedia franchise, asserting that Glut’s four stories were work for hire. Mattel refers to the writer’s claims of ownership as “both baseless and stale,” insisting the statute of limitations long ago expired.
According to the complaint, Glut was commissioned in 1981 to write “He-Man and the Power Sword,” “The Vengeance of Skeletor,” “Battle in the Clouds” and “King of Castle Grayskull” and to create backstories for He-Man and other characters under the direction of the toymaker (“Mattel told Glut what the toys could do and directed him to have the characters in the minicomics do these things as much as possible,” the document states). The company notes the writer acknowledged as recently as 2001 that the minicomics were work for hire for which he received neither credit nor royalties.
Although I initially didn’t plan it this way, it’s appropriate that I’m running this interview with And The One Day creator Ryan Claytor on Father’s Day, as earlier this month Ryan and his wife Candace welcomed their first son, Owen Marshall Robert Claytor, into the world. Congratulations to the Claytor’s on their new addition!
No doubt Owen will one day be able to read about his birth from his father’s perspective, as Ryan has been chronicling parts of his life in a series of minicomics titled And The One Day. After almost a decade of self-publishing his comics, Ryan has turned to IndieGoGo to fund a collection of Autobiographical Conversations, the most recent story arc from And Then One Day. Autobiographical Conversations centers on a discussion between Professor Harry Polkinhorn, who teaches classes on the personal essay, and Ryan when he was a graduate student studying Comics and Fine Art. Their conversation is about autobiography, comics and the intersection of the two. His campaign ends on June 19, and he just announced a new stretch goal.
Roger Langridge, whose done some stellar work over the last few years on titles like Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Popeye, Snarked and The Muppets, has a new comic available for purchase online. Originally created as a minicomic that he sold at the 2-D Festival in Ireland, Langridge is now selling The Fez online himself for one pound. It is also coming to comiXology in the near future.
“I love minicomics. To me, they are the most perfect form of comics – comics in their most refined state,” he said on his blog. “They are a formal embodiment of comics’ most attractive feature: comics, unlike film or theatre or even music, require no collaboration, no real financial resources to make happen. One person can do it all. With minicomics, that person is not only producing the work, but more often than not printing, assembling and stapling the things as well. If comics are the people’s artform, minicomics are its most accessible manifestation.”
He goes on to wonder if a “digital comic” qualifies as a “minicomic.”
There’s a growing number of small-press publishers popping up these days, from Koyama Press to Oily Comics and beyond. No doubt that’s in large part due to the increasing number of indie-comics conventions like CAKE and SPX, the relative ease of selling your work online, more and more cartoonists trained in basic printing and business skills thanks to schools like the Center for Cartoon Studies, and perhaps even more affordable printing technologies. (I’m guessing at that last one. OK, I’m guessing at all of these.)
Whatever the reason, we are blessed (or, depending on your viewpoint, cursed) with a plethora of minicomics from new and up-and-coming cartoonists. Here then are some short-ish reviews of minis that came to my doorstep from two relatively new publishers: Yeti Press and Retrofit Comics.
Our Ever Improving Living Room by Kevin Budnik ($20): This is a chunky-sized collection of a series of four-panel journal comics Budnik did while attending college. It’s similar in style and presentation to James Kochalka’s American Elf, although Budnik portrays himself as being a bit more reserved and anxious than Kochalka. It seems like just about everyone and their cat is doing a diary comic of some form these days, and while I can appreciate how the daily rigamarole of that type of comic can improve one’s artistic and storytelling skill, there’s always a danger in discovering that the examined life turns out to be rather dull. While he’s not above highlighting the cute moment or indulging in some unnecessary naval-gazing, Budnik manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of his peers by possessing a self-effacing sense of humor and an appreciation for the minor victories and miseries of life. This is early work, and rough at times, but it shows a good deal of promise and I want to see what he does next.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? To see what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately, click below.
When she isn’t drawing comics like Batman or The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Becky Cloonan is self-publishing her own awesome minicomics like The Mire and Wolves. Her latest, Demeter, is now available for pre-order on WereHouse.ca, a site that also features work by Karl Kerschl and Andy Belanger.
Cloonan said she decided to move from her previous storefront at Big Cartel to the new site because of the response she’s received to her self-published comics.
I first came across Rina Ayuyang’s work with the arrival in 2010 of Whirlwind Wonderland, which collected her various minicomics in one slim book. Iwas quite taken with the warmth and good humor she displayed in detailing her life, family and relationships, and I dubbed it one of the most criminally ignored books of that year.
While she’s still putting out the occasional minicomic, Ayuyang has recently become a small-press publisher with her new imprint Yam Books. The company is off to an excellent start with its first book Ticket Stub, by Tim Hensley, which came out late last year. The book, which collects the off-kilter minicomics Hensley created while working at his former day job as a closed-caption editor is a head-spinning series of dada-esque riffs on popular movies.
Curious about what sort of challenges Ayuyang might have encountered in making the transition from indie cartoonist to indie publisher, I asked whether she’d be up for answering some of my invasive questions. Thankfully, she was more than happy to do so.
Look, if we’re going to have Pi Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day and all sorts of other random holidays, we should have a day to celebrate minicomics, too, right? The folks at minicomics.org have declared March 24 the third annual Mini-Comics Day. It’s like 24 Hour Comics Day only… smaller?
Awards | Brian Crane (Pickles), Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) have been nominated for the 2012 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, presented by the National Cartoonists Society. [National Cartoonists Society]
Awards | Nominations are being sought for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, which will be presented July 19 at Comic-Con International during the Eisner Awards ceremony. The deadline is April 5. [Comic-Con International]
Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]
Although Becky Cloonan has been hard at work on The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, the upcoming miniseries that teams her with Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, she’s somehow found time for a new minicomic called Demeter.
The announcement this morning wasn’t accompanied by any details, but if this minicomic is anywhere near as good as her two previous ones, Wolves and The Mire, it will be well worth keeping an eye out for. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys will be previewed May 4 as part of Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day lineup before launching in June; Demeter will arrive “later this year.”
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
Right now, you can read two great new comics by respected creators online — provided you can read their languages.
Did you take French in college? Then head to Guy Delisle’s blog, where you can enjoy the goofy humor of Le guide du mauvais père (roughly, “Guide for the bad dad”). You really don’t have to be briefed in the particulars of the perfect tense, or even too well acquainted with Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp, to enjoy these comics; the language is straightforward and the visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting, at least in the strips I read. (Click each of the cartoons on the linked page to get a short story.)
The finalists have been announced for the 2012 SPACE Prize, selected from among the titles collected at the 2012 Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo in Columbus, Ohio.
The winner in each of the three categories — General, Minicomics/Short Story and Webcomic — will be chosen by two rotating judges and registered 2012 SPACE exhibitors. The winner in the General category receives $300 and a plaque, while the winners in the Minicomics/Short Story and Webcomic category each receive $100 and a plaque.
Winners will be announced in January, and presented with their plaques April 13 during SPACE 2013. The finalists are:
• Binary Gray #1-2, by Chris Charton and Rowel Roque (Assailant Comics)
• Blink: Wonka Wonka Kochalka, by Max Ink (Point Media)
Comics | Ohio drivers moved a little closer to getting their Superman specialty license plate Wednesday as the proposal was outlined for a state Senate committee. The bill, which already passed the state House, is on track to go to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the year. The Siegel & Shuster Society launched the campaign for the plates in July 2011 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel in 2013; the character, which debuted in 1938, was created six years earlier in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The original plan for the plates to include the slogan “Birthplace of Superman,” that met with objections from Warner Bros., which insisted he was born on Krypton. The legend will now read, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” [Plain Dealer]
Manga | Tony Yao summarizes a recent article from The Nikkei Shimbun that analyzes the readership of Shonen Jump, which is 50 percent female despite the magazine being targeted to boys (“shonen” means “boy” in Japanese). They break down the popularity of series by gender and discuss how the female audience affects editorial decisions. [Manga Therapy]