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Stan Lee Media fires back at Disney in fight over Spider-Man

spider-manFighting an effort to end its persistent claims to Spider-Man, the tenacious Stan Lee Media Inc. insists it’s up to Disney to prove ownership of the Marvel superhero.

In documents filed Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia, the failed dot-com again argued that none of the previous cases over the past decade — and there have been many — has directly addressed the merits of its ownership claims. “No judge has decided that Disney actually owns the Spider‐Man copyrights or, for that matter, that SLMI does not own the copyrights,” the papers state. “[...] That issue has never been decided, and Disney has now placed it directly before the court in this case.”

“This case” is a copyright- and trademark-infringement involving the use of elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a musical revue staged by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre. What Disney’s lawyers thought would be “a simple case” took an unexpected turn in November when the theater responded that it had licensed Spider-Man, from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to Stan Lee, to sue Disney, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, the other Marvel characters it’s sought since emerging from bankruptcy in 2006.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Silver Spoon,’ and the rise of … farming manga?

Silver Spoon

Silver Spoon

Manga | In Japan, as elsewhere, people would rather read about farming than actually do it; agriculture has become a popular topic for manga, and the Agriculture Ministry recently announced an award for manga that raise interest in farming. The article mainly focuses on Hiromu Arakawa’s Silver Spoon, which has recently been made into a movie; Arakawa is also the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, a fact the article omits. [The Wall Street Journal]

Awards | Silver Spoon was on of the 10 nominees for this year’s Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize; two manga that are published in English, Attack on Titan and Animal Land, also made the list. [Anime News Network]

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Disney seeks to end Stan Lee Media’s pursuit of Marvel heroes

disney-marvel-logoAfter being pursued in court over the past seven years by Stan Lee Media, Marvel and its corporate parent Disney have had enough: On Valentine’s Day, the companies asked a federal judge to put a stop to the failed dot-com’s dogged claims of ownership of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and other lucrative characters.

Filed Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, and first reported by Hollywood, Esq., the motion to dismiss comes as part of what began in September as a seemingly straightforward copyright- and trademark-infringement lawsuit involving the use of elements from Spider-Man, Mary Poppins and The Lion King in a musical revue staged by the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based American Music Theatre.

However, as Disney states in its filing, that “simple case” was “transmogrified” with the surprising assertion in November from the theater that it had licensed Spider-Man … from Stan Lee Media, which was named in a third-party counterclaim (it should be noted the license was obtained after Disney filed suit). That conveniently opened the door for the company, which no longer has a connection to its co-founder and namesake, to sue Disney on Feb. 7, seeking a jury trial regarding ownership of Spider-Man, and, presumably, other characters co-created by Stan Lee.

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There’s a death metal song about Stan Lee, because why not?

its-not-stanley

He’s been a comics writer, editor and publisher, a television host, an actor, an action figure, a video-game character and a social-media sensation. What’s left for Stan Lee to conquer?

If you said death metal, you’re too late.

Ottawa-based death metal band Killitorous, which has written a song about the legendary creator titled “It’s Not Stanley, It’s Stan Lee.” While the lyrics don’t contain any references to “Excelsior!” or “True Believers” — instead, we get “amalgamate these creations from my mind arise/powers beyond the comprehension of all mankind” — the video makes it crystal clear the band loves the Man.

“It’s Not Stanley, It’s Stan Lee” will appear on Killitorous’ upcoming album Party, Grind.

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Stan Lee Media steps into licensing dispute, sues Disney

marvel superheroes

Continuing its long, and so far wholly unsuccessful, fight for ownership of many of Marvel’s best-known characters, the tenacious Stan Lee Media has sued a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary, seeking to join a dispute about licensing Spider-Man for the stage.

In September, Disney Enterprises, Marvel and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd. sued Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based 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). The theater responded in November with the surprising claim that Disney doesn’t own Spider-Man. Instead, the counterclaim stated, the character belongs to Stan Lee Media, which licensed the rights to the American Music Theatre.

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Comics A.M. | Protest of SodaStream’s Angoulême sponsorship grows

Angoulême International Comics Festival

Angoulême International Comics Festival

Controversy | Zainab Akhtar has a good roundup of the SodaStream controversy: A number of internationally known creators have protested SodaStream’s sponsorship of the Angoulême International Comics Festival because the soft-drink manufacturer has a factory in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “All of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied West Bank are illegal under international law, and SodaStream’s factory in specific was build on land seized from several Palestinian villages in what is regarded as the largest single act of expropriation by the Israeli government in its 47-year long military occupation of the West Bank,” the organizers of the protest said in a statement. A number of artists, including Jacques Tardi (whose work was celebrated in a special exhibit at the show) have signed an open letter to festival organizer Frank Bondoux, asking him to end the relationship with SodaStream. Tardi also issued a statement saying he felt that he had been “taken hostage,” as he did not know about the sponsorship until the festival began. [Comics and Cola]

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Comics A.M. | Remembering ‘Wee Pals’ creator Morrie Turner

Robinson with Turner

Robinson with Turner

Passings | Bomb Queen and Five Weapons creator Jimmie Robinson writes a touching remembrance of pioneering cartoonist Morrie Turner, who passed away Saturday at age 90. Widely recognized as the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, the Wee Pals creator frequently spoke at schools, and it was during one of those visits that he inspired a young Jimmie Robinson: “When he came to our class he spoke about his craft and showed us how he worked and what his job demanded. He spoke about his newspaper comic strip and how he had to write it every day. He spoke about the diverse cast of characters in his strip, but he never once spoke about the issue of his race. But for me he didn’t have to. The fact that he, a black artist, even existed, spoke volumes.” The New York Times also has an obituary for Turner. [Jimmie Robinson]

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Stan Lee makes Forbes’ list of most influential celebrities

stan lee2

Forbes has named Stan Lee among its most influential celebrities of 2014, a list led by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and George Lucas. The 91-year-old comics legend came in at No. 9 (of just 10), between Bono and Rush Limbaugh.

“Maybe it’s all those cameos in Marvel movies,” the business magazine explains. “Lee doesn’t usually show up on this list but the comic creator is responsible for the characters in some of the biggest movies in recent years.”

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‘The Simpsons’ pays tribute to Hayao Miyazaki

simpsons-anime

In addition to guest appearances by Stan Lee and Harlan Ellison, Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons will also feature a tribute to anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement from filmmaking in September, only to return his attention to manga.

The hallucinatory sequence, which you can watch below, features Homer and a salaryman stumbling through the streets after a night of drinking, and encounter a veritable parade of nods to Miyazaki’s classics, from Otto as Catbus to Patty and Selma flying on broomsticks to a moving Kwik-E-Mart.

In case you don’t recognize all of the references, Salon.com has put together a video that annotates most of them (also below).

The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Watch Stan Lee & Harlan Ellison discuss their ‘Simpsons’ cameos

simpsons-stan-lee

Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons, “Married to the Blob,” not only spotlights a blossoming relationship between Comic Book Guy and a manga creator (which naturally threatens to be ruined by Homer), but also features guest appearances by Stan Lee and Harlan Ellison.

The Hollywood Reporter has debuted a featurette that goes behind the scenes with the two legends; it’s Lee’s second visit to Springfield, but for Ellison, it’s a new experience.

“I was here 12 years ago,” explains Lee, who plays himself as a Watcher-type character, “and I think I impressed them so that after 12 years they figured they had to have me back.”

Lee previously appeared in the 13th-season episode “I Am Furious (Yellow).” The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Stan Lee’s birthday present: One million Twitter followers

Stan Lee, from "I Am Furious (Yellow)"

Stan Lee, from “I Am Furious (Yellow)”

He helped create the Marvel Universe, he’s appeared in Marvel movies, he still draws huge crowds at comic conventions, he’s been a Simpsons character and he even has his own cologne — but perhaps Stan Lee’s biggest accomplishment comes today, on his 91st birthday, as the still-working writer finally hit one million followers on Twitter.

Back in August, a Public Service Announcement was released, asking folks to follow The Man on Twitter and push him into the one million followers club. Instead of jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, though, the Internet got together in secret and decided to wait to follow him — giving Lee the ultimate birthday present. Surprise!

In all seriousness, congratulations and happy birthday to Stan Lee! Check out Kevin’s post from yesterday to see some fun shots of Stan throughout the years.

Happy (early) 91st birthday to Stan Lee!

stan lee-thor-hulk

Stan Lee, who with such collaborators as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Larry Lieber and Don Heck created the Marvel Universe, and who earlier this introduced his own cologne, turns 91 years old on Saturday. Yet he still has fewer than 1 million followers on Twitter; helping Lee to reach that milestone would seem like a nice birthday present …

To help celebrate the anniversary of his birth, I once again collect some of my favorite Stan Lee photos from around the Internet:

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Avengers owe their existence to a missed ‘Daredevil’ deadline?

avengers1The Motley Fool marks the 50th anniversary of the Avengers with an article that’s part history lesson, part early celebration of Disney’s potential box-office haul from films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron (it is a financial website, after all). But the interesting part of the piece is a bit of trivia I’d never read before: that The Avengers #1 was thrown into production only because of a major delay on Daredevil #1.

While the article doesn’t provide a source, that tidbit may have come from Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, who explained in 2011 that the company planned to follow The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man in 1963 with The X-Men and Daredevil. However, between his day job and his drinking problem, artist Bill Everett fell far, far behind on Daredevil #1, leaving Marvel with a printing deadline but no comic.

“In those days, you booked print time way ahead of time — and if your book wasn’t ready, you paid for the printing time anyway,” Brevoort wrote.

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Panels for Primates spawns digital anthologies

Panels for PrimatesThree years ago, the folks at Act-i-vate kicked off Panels for Primates, a webcomic anthology in which various writers and artists created comics about monkeys, apes and other primates. The comic was free, but readers were encouraged to donate to the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholsville, Kentucky. The roster of contributors to the comic is impressive, with such creators as David Petersen, Rick Geary and Fred Van Lente involved.

Now the comics have been collected into a digital anthology on comiXology, published, appropriately, by Monkeybrain. Actually, two anthologies: Panels for Primates Junior is suitable for all ages, while Panels for Primates is rated 15+. The kids’ version looks very cute and has some good creators on board, including Rich Clabaugh, Mike Maihack, and J. Bone, but the lineup for the 15+ version is irresistible: Stan Lee, Paul Kupperberg (writer of Life with Archie and a former writer for the tabloid Weekly World News), Faith Erin Hicks, Colleen Coover, Molly Crabapple and ROBOT 6 contributor Michael May — just imagine what these people can do with monkeys!

The kids’ book is $8.99 and the adult anthology is $9.99, and once again, proceeds from both will go to the Primate Rescue Center.

(via Pop Candy)

Comics A.M. | A closer look at the end of PictureBox

Pompeii

Pompeii

Publishing | Tom Spurgeon writes the definitive obituary of PictureBox, which announced Monday it will stop publishing at the end of the year. He also polls other small-press comics publishers for their reactions. [The Comics Reporter]

Digital comics | Yen Press is bringing its digital manga magazine Yen Plus to an end; the December issue will be the final one. The magazine was launched as a print anthology in August 2008 and switched to digital-only format in 2010. When it began serializing Soul Eater NOT, Yen Plus became the first magazine to publish manga chapters worldwide at the same time they came out in Japan (Shonen Jump does simultaneous release, but only to a restricted region). [Anime News Network]

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