Cartoonist Megan Rose Gedris has announced her long-running webcomic I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space will be taken offline on Nov. 5 due to her desire to break ties with rights holders Platinum Studios.
“This is by my own choice, a very difficult choice,” Gedris wrote on her blog. “As you may or may not know, the rights to LPFOS were bought by Platinum Studios in 2006. In the years since I first became involved with them, more and more of their shady practices have been revealed, to the point where I can’t be involved with them in any capacity anymore. I tried to get the rights back through many different avenues, but there is nothing I can do.”
Platinum acquired the rights to Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space around 2007, and in her post, Gedris proceeds to outline her frustration and problems with the publisher over the six years following the completion of one small print run. Her decision to remove the comic completely from the Internet stems from her feeling of “being taken advantage of” by Platinum Studios by continuing to work on the comic.
Publishing | As the smoke settles around the turmoil at Platinum Studios, it appears that company founder and CEO Scott Rosenberg remains in his position following an attempt by President Chris Beall to unseat him — and it’s Beall instead who’s been voted out. According to Deadline, Beall stands by his claims that Rosenberg has mismanaged Platinum and transferred controlling interest in the company to a shell entity called RIP Media without the approval of shareholders. Rosenberg denies the accusations, including that he controls RIP. The Beat has background on the whole mess. [Deadline]
Passings | Cartoonist Chris Cassatt, one of the contributors to the comic strip Shoe, has passed away following a short illness. He was 66. Cassatt started out in 1993 as the assistant to Shoe creator Jeff MacNelly and worked with him until MacNelly’s death in 2000. After that, he collaborated with Susie MacNelly and Gary Brookins on the strip. In earlier days he was a photographer for the Aspen Times in Colorado and also created a local comic featuring a character named Sal A. Mander whom he had run in actual local elections. “After candidate Sal A. Mander was thrown off the ballot in an Aspen mayoral election on the shaky (in Aspen, anyway) grounds that he was not a ‘real person,’ Cassatt legally changed his name to Sal A. Mander and ran for Colorado governor in 1978, finishing fifth in a six-candidate contest,” the newspaper writes. The following year, he mounted a write-in campaign for Sal against an unpopular district attorney who was running unopposed. He lost, but the ridicule Cassatt’s character heaped on the D.A. during the campaign took its toll, and he didn’t stay in office for long. [Aspen Times]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]
Universal Pictures, DreamWorks and Platinum Studios have asked a federal judge in Texas to dismiss a lawsuit filed in December by a cartoonist claiming the sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens infringes on his 1995 comic of the same name.
In his complaint, Steven Busti contends the 2006 graphic novel on which the movie is based “contains striking similarities” to his own story, published more than a decade earlier in Bizarre Fantasy #1. Among those are “an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked” and an alien commander “incredibly similar” to the conqueror “Morguu” in Busti’s work.
But Law 360 reports that in a motion filed Tuesday, the studios and Cowboys & Aliens creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg assert Busti doesn’t provide sufficient evidence that Rosenberg had access to the self-published Bizarre Fantasy, “but instead simply alleges his comic was ‘published internationally and widely available’ and that a preview of his Cowboys and Aliens story appeared on an eight-page, obscure free weekly publication.”
Indeed, Busti, who didn’t register his comic with the U.S. Copyright Office until September 2011, two months after the premiere of the Universal film, seems to rely heavily on timing for his complaint: He notes that a preview of his “Cowboys and Aliens” story appeared on the back of Bizarre Fantasy #0 in November 1995, and was spotlighted in Comic Shop News, on the same page as a profile of Rosenberg. Less than two years later, Platinum released a one-sheet featuring a cowboy chased by an alien spaceship, part of a promotional effort that led to the sale of the film rights and the eventual release in 2006 of the graphic novel.
The defendants also brushed off accusations that the Platinum graphic novel and subsequent film adaptation bear “striking similarities” to Busti’s comic, saying that such aspects as the alien ship flying over a cowboy and the attack on the Native Americans “are generic plot elements that do not demonstrate striking similarity.”
In his complaint, first reported by TMZ, Steven Bunti contends the 2006 Platinum graphic novel on which the film is based “contains striking similarities” to his own story, published more than a decade earlier in Bizarre Fantasy #1. Among those are “an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked” and an alien commander “incredibly similar” to the conqueror “Morguu” in Bunti’s work.
Although Bunti didn’t register his comic with the U.S. Copyright Office until September, two months after the premiere of the Universal film, he notes that a preview of the story appeared on the back of Bizarre Fantasy #0 in November 1995, and was spotlighted in Comic Shop News — on the same page as a story about Malibu Studios and Platinum chairman, and Cowboys & Aliens creator, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (he’s also named in Bunti’s lawsuit).
In May 1997, Platinum released a one-sheet featuring a cowboy chased by an alien spaceship, part of a promotional effort that led Universal and DreamWorks to buy the film rights to Cowboys & Aliens, and Platinum to publish the 2006 graphic novel, overseen by Rosenberg.
The Cowboys & Aliens movie premiered last week at Comic-Con International, and it opens nationwide on Friday, so it’s a good time to revisit the graphic novel on which it’s based. Remember the graphic novel? Despite the controversy around the initial marketing — the claim is that publisher Platinum Studios boosted the book onto the bestseller list by giving it away for free — I thought it was a pretty good read. Which is not surprising, considering it has a pretty solid team of writers and artists behind it: Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley are the writers, and Dennis Calero and Luciano Lima handled the art.
Graphicly announced Wednesday that it’s releasing an enhanced digital edition priced at $9.99, and publishing a special Nook edition at the same price. Or you could get it for free: Years ago, Cowboys & Aliens was published digitally at Wowio, which was owned by Platinum at one time but is now a separate company. It is still up at Wowio with a list price of $1.99, but at the moment it’s free as a sponsored download— without the enhancements, of course.
So what makes Graphicly’s version worth $10? I put the question directly to Ron Richards, the company’s vice president of external relations, and here is his response: “The C&A book on Graphicly is the latest release (the Wowio one is dated 2006), and the extras contain all the movie trailers, character sketches and bios. The characters are hot-spotted throughout the book, so you can click on someone and load up their bio and see development sketches. And when it’s purchased at B&N, you can unlock even more extras including video and audio.”
The extras are pretty impressive, but so is the price differential. So I leave it to you, readers: Which would you buy?
Business | Platinum Studios has sold webcomics community DrunkDuck to e-book publisher WOWIO for an undisclosed sum. WOWIO was purchased in 2008 by Platinum and then sold in July 2009 to a holding company formed by Platinum President and COO Brian Altounian.
The DrunkDuck acquisition follows the announcement last week that WOWIO has raised $1.7 million in private financing and purchased WEvolt.com, an online community for creators to share and promote their work. Established in 2002 by Dylan Squires, DrunkDuck provides free hosting for webcomics, as well as forums and a feedback/review system. The site was purchased in December 2006 by Platinum. [press release]