Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Ed Kramer’s extradition to Georgia last week on child-molestation charges dating back to 2000 has again cast a spotlight on his relationship with DragonCon, the Atlanta convention he helped found nearly 26 years ago.
The 51-year-old Kramer hasn’t been directly associated with the event since his arrest in August 2000 on charges of sexually abusing two teenage boys. However, he continues to receive annual dividends from DragonCon — $154,000 for 2011 alone, according to Atlanta Magazine — after attempts to buy out Kramer’s stake in the for-profit corporation proved unsuccessful. The litigious Kramer has filed two lawsuits against co-founder Pat Henry and DragonCon/ACE Inc.
But horror author Nancy A. Collins, who was among the first to speak out against Kramer, contends DragonCon organizers haven’t done enough to extricate themselves from its co-founder. And so in a proposal circulated Monday by Stephen Bissette, the former Swamp Thing writer calls for professionals to boycott the convention in an effort “to cut off the flow of money” to Kramer, “who has been using the 150K+ a year he receives each year from DragonCon to avoid trial and manipulate the justice system.”
In a Facebook post that was disseminated this morning by Bleeding Cool, longtime creator rights advocate Stephen Bissette revealed that Marvel’s parent company sent a cease-and-desist demand to Lee and Kaluta challenging their ownership of Starstruck, which was released briefly in 1985 and 1986 under the publisher’s Epic Comics imprint. But what initially appeared to be an instance of a media conglomerate bullying creators may have been a simple, if nerve-wracking, mistake on Disney’s part.
“Just to make sure that things don’t veer into the realm of ‘truthiness,’ Michael Kaluta and I received a letter that challenged our ownership of Starstruck and used the words, ‘please stop all sales and other related activities,'” Lee clarified later today. “Through our lawyer, we provided two letters from Marvel’s former publisher, Mike Hobson, that backed our ownership of Starstruck. Things seem to have calmed down now. The situation seems to have been resolved. (I’m overusing the word ‘seems,’ so as not to jinx myself. Knock wood.) It was scary. At first, we weren’t sure we could find the 3-decades-old documents we needed. (From way back in the pre-digital days, youngsters. We’re talking paper here. Dusty, old, yellow paper.) But there is no lawsuit. We think it may either have been about Disney’s teen movie of a couple of years back, also called Starstruck. They may have found us while looking for people infringing on their property. Or they may have been simply trying to figure out what they still owned. But it was a frightening way to do it. So, this may have been an aberration, or other Epic creators may hear from them. Who knows? But creators may want to scare up that old paperwork. It can’t hurt and might save you several days of abject fear.”
A Marvel spokesman had no comment when contacted by Robot 6.
With Comic-Con International nearly upon us, Stephen Bissette posts a reminder that 27 years after they were stolen from the offices of DC Comics, pieces of original artwork from Saga of the Swamp Thing by he and John Totleben are still missing.
“This is stolen property,” he writes on his blog. “It is not legally for sale, nor legally the property of anyone else to trade, exhibit, or sell. Please contact me if you know anything about where it is or who has it. If you are knowingly selling, buying, or trading this original art, you are engaged in a criminal act involving stolen original art.”
The pieces include the original painting for the cover of Saga of the Swamp Thing #34 (above), the final page of that issue (below), and pinups by Totleben for issues 32 and 33.
“At this point, it would be the property of our children, some of whom are now adults,” Bissette continues. “They know. And we will be reminding the world of this regularly.”
Following efforts by Steve Niles, James Stokoe, Brandon Graham and Neal Adams, the T-shirt site World of Strange is offering a T-shirt that supports Gary Friedrich, following his loss in court to Marvel.
According to the site, “Profits from this shirt will go directly to Gary in order to support him with rising medical costs, legal fees and penalties paid to Marvel Comics.” The artwork features skulls drawn by Billy Tackett, Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch, Bob Burden, Nathan Thomas Milliner, Sam Flegal and Denis St. John. The shirt costs $11.99 and can be purchased on their site.
Reacting to analysis of Marvel’s much-publicized dispute with Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich, Joe the Barbarian artist Sean Gordon Murphy has announced he’ll no longer sell convention sketches or commissions of characters he doesn’t own, and encourages other creators to do the same.
“Am I rolling over in fear of Marvel? Maybe, but […] they’re in their legal right to come after me if there’s ever a dispute,” Murphy wrote this morning on deviantART. “I love to complain about the Big Two, but I can’t (in good conscience) get upset at them if I’m breaking the rules myself. Being DC exclusive, maybe I can get a waiver that allows me to sketch DC characters, so I’ll keep you updated.”
Friedrich sued Marvel, Sony Pictures and other companies in 2007, claiming the rights to Ghost Rider had reverted to him six years earlier because the publisher never registered the character’s first appearance in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5 with the U.S. Copyright Office. Marvel counter-sued in 2010, seeking damages from Friedrich who, through Gary Friedrich Enterprises LLC, had produced and sold unauthorized Ghost Rider posters, cards and T-shirts at conventions and online. The company also asserted that Friedrich had “aided and abetted third parties” in reproducing and selling “graphic and narrative elements” of Ghost Rider comics.