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Archie Comics executives settle bitter, bizarre legal battle

Nancy Silberkeit with Jon Goldwater (right) and Archie Comics Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick

The yearlong legal feud for control of Archie Comics has ended with a settlement that restores embattled Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit to her position at the company. However, the confidential agreement was criticized by the granddaughters of Archie co-founder John L. Goldwater, who claim that both executives’ “hands are dirty.”

The Associated Press reports that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich approved the deal Wednesday, bringing to a close the bitter, and frequently outlandish, dispute between Silberkleit and Co-CEO Jon Goldwater that became public in July 2011, when Archie accused Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees and sued to bar her from the company’s Mamaroneck, New York, headquarters.

Silberkleit, who stepped into the role of co-CEO in 2009, following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit (son of Archie Comics co-founder Louis Silberkleit), countered that Jon Goldwater is a chauvinist who was mounting a smear campaign to drive her out of the company, and sought $100 million in damages for defamation. The fight escalated in January when Goldwater, son of John L. Goldwater, sued to have Silberkleit removed as a director and CEO, claiming, “Unless Silberkleit is removed as a director and an officer, the company — an iconic American company — is in serious danger of failing and being liquidated.” That was quickly followed by a temporary restraining order prohibiting Silberkleit from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.

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Comics A.M. | Batmobile covered by copyright; more on Archie feud

A Batmobile replica from Gotham Garage

Legal | A judge refused to dismiss DC Comics’ lawsuit against Gotham Garage, a manufacturer of custom-made Batmobiles, ruling that the design of Batman’s vehicle is indeed copyrightable. DC sued the California company in May for copyright and trademark infringement, claiming Gotham Garage is confusing the public into thinking the cars are authorized products. The manufacturer asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles.” The judge disagreed, ruling that Gotham Garage “ignores the exception to the ‘useful article’ rule, which grants copyright protection to nonfunctional, artistic elements of an automobile design that can be physically or conceptually separated from the automobile.” [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Nancy Hass provides a broad overview of the legal battle at Archie Comics that pits Co-CEOs Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit against each other for control of the 73-year-old company. Silberkleit, who spoke briefly to Hass before a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order last month, called claims that she’s threatened and harassed the publisher’s employees and vendors “completely untrue.” [The Daily Beast]

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Judge orders Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit ‘not to do anything’ for Archie

Nancy Silberkleit

Just a week after Archie Comics Co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater sued to remove Nancy Silberkleit as a director and co-CEO, a New York judge has barred her from entering the company’s offices, or performing any work for the 73-year-old publisher.

The temporary restraining order was issued by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich in response to charges that Silberkleit ignored a Nov. 28 injunction prohibiting her from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.

Goldwater’s lawsuit insists “the ink was barely dry” on Kornreich’s previous order when Silberkleit violated it by having unnecessary contact with staff. According to the New York Daily News, Silberkleit acknowledged under oath Tuesday that she contacted freelance writers about participating in an anti-bullying comic announced last week.

“I thought it was a good idea to do a book about bullying, because I’m right here in the midst of it myself,” she testified. “I’m the one being harassed and abused here.”

Issuing the new order ahead of a Feb. 2 contempt hearing, Kornreich didn’t mince words: “She is not to do anything for Archie Comics Productions.”

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Comics A.M. | Creators, publishers speak out against SOPA, PIPA

Neil Gaiman

Internet | Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman joined with Trent Reznor, Aziz Ansari, OK Go and 14 other members of the creative community in signing an open letter to Congress against the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. “We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result,” the letter states.

Warren Ellis and Fantagraphics have also come out against the bill, while Peter David, who is against the bill in its current form, takes aim at those who “endorsed the piracy, supported the piracy, enabled the piracy, felt their own actions weren’t piracy, and now refuse to accept the consequences of their own actions.” ComicsAlliance has posted an editorial against the bill and rounded up webcomic reactions to the blackout. [NeilGaiman.com]

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Archie co-CEO accuses company of smear campaign

Nancy Silberkleit

Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit claims the company’s lawsuit against her is merely “a thinly veneered attempt to smear my name and gain complete corporate control” for her counterpart Jon Goldwater.

The lawsuit, filed early last month, accuses Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees, and sought to bar her from the publisher’s Mamaroneck, N.Y., headquarters and from representing the company at Comic-Con International. A judge allowed her to return to work and attend the San Diego convention, but she’s not permitted to talk to vendors.

According to Archie, Silberklet’s “offensive” behavior dates back to 2009, when she stepped into the co-CEO role following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit, son of co-founder Louis Silberkleit. In one incident, she allegedly interrupted a meeting and pointed to each of the four men in the room, shouting “PENIS, PENIS, PENIS, PENIS.” In another, she reportedly complained that her “balls hurt.” Another employee asserts he heard Silberkleit say, “All you penises think you can run me out.”

The company contends it hired an outside firm to investigate employee allegations of Silberkleit’s actions, and was advised to cut ties with her.

However, The Journal News reports that Silberkleit denies the allegations and claims that Goldwater, son of Archie Comics co-founder John L. Goldwater, is a chauvinist who’s attempting to drive her out of the company.

“He has called me ‘stupid,’ a ‘moron,’ and ‘despicable,'” the former art teacher said in an affidavit filed last week. “In the presence of others he has told me to ‘shut up’ and ‘why can’t you be sweet, nice and quiet like a lady?’ ”

She accuses Goldwater of making corporate decisions without her, canceling a children’s literacy tour without telling her, and turning employees against her. “Mr. Goldwater long ago and repeatedly has told some employees and also people within the industry that he would get rid of me one way or the other,” Silberkleit wrote.

Her attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the company’s lawsuit. A hearing is set for Aug. 16 in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Report: Archie Comics sues Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit

Nancy Silberkleit

Archie Comics has filed a lawsuit against Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit accusing her of bullying and sexually harassing employees, TMZ reports. The company is asking a judge for an injunction preventing Silberkleit from returning to its Mamaroneck, N.Y., headquarters and from representing the company at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Wife of the late Michael Silberkleit, son of Archie Comics co-founder Louis Silberkleit, Nancy Silberkleit was an art teacher who stepped into the co-CEO role in 2009 following the death of her husband. She shares the title with Jon Goldwater, son of company co-founder John L. Goldwater.

TMZ reports that the lawsuit, filed Thursday in New York, documents employee complaints of Silberkleit’s “offensive” behavior dating back to 2009. In one incident she allegedly interrupted a meeting and “pointed to each [attendee] and said, ‘PENIS, PENIS, PENIS, PENIS’ and then walked out.”

Archie Comics claims it hired an outside firm to investigate the allegations, and was advised to cut ties with Silberkleit.

Comics A.M. | The graphic novel market, and webcomic economics

Diamond Book Distributors

Publishing | Calvin Reid interviews Kuo-Yu Liang, vice president of sales and marketing at Diamond Book Distributors, about the state of graphic novel sales, the international market, manga and more: “I think we are entering the golden age of selling graphic novels. The demographics and the audience are both broadening. We are lucky that the core readers have stuck with us through the recession. We are finding new readers crossing over from literary, commercial, speculative and genre fiction. Non-fiction graphic novels are doing well. We’re getting more kids and parents (I’ll talk more about that later). I also think the growth of internet shopping has changed the game, because now it is easier than ever to find what you like to read, and get recommendation from fellow readers. The key is still good books. Without them, we don’t have an industry.” [Publishers Weekly]

Publishing | Heidi MacDonald spotlights BOOM! Studios, with a focus on the publisher’s marketing efforts. “The secret to our success to go to the thing that other people haven’t done; it isn’t to go head to head against people, or trying to take their market share away or trying to duplicate their editorial style,” says co-founder Ross Richie. “We’ve had to invent a space in the market place to exist. ” [Publishers Weekly]

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