Legal | The final chapter of The Oatmeal vs. Charles Carreon has been completed (we hope), and it’s not a shining moment for Carreon: A judge has ordered him to pay $46,000 in attorney’s fees to the creator of a Satirical Charles Carreon website, whom he threatened with legal action. Carreon eventually dropped his suit, but the whole dispute escalated anyway, and the judge cited his “malicious conduct” in awarding the fees. [Ars Technica]
Digital comics | Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Comic Creator, which allows creators to upload various types of files and make them into e-books to be sold in the Kindle store; the software has its own system for creating panel-by-panel view, and the finished product can be read on a wide variety of Kindles and Kindle apps. [Good E-Reader]
Digital comics | ComiXology, which earlier this week announced the opening of a European branch, has revealed its first big score: a digital-distribution agreement with Delcourt, the top independent publisher in France. And comiXology kicked off the agreement by updating its dedicated Walking Dead app to include a French interface and the French editions of the comic. The company also plans a dedicated Lanfeust of Troy app, and of course it will roll out Delcourt titles on its regular app as well. [ComiXology]
Auctions | A copy of Detective Comics #27, which contains the first appearance of Batman (or, as he was called in 1939, “the Bat-Man”), will go on the auction block later this month. The comic, which is CGC rated 6.5, is expected to fetch $500,000, but there’s no reserve, so this might be an opportunity to pick up a bargain. [Art Daily]
You don’t step on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. And you don’t mess around with Matthew Inman, creator of the wildly popular webcomic The Oatmeal. Charles Carreon learned that earlier this year, when he sued Inman over allegedly defamatory comments and was made an Internet laughingstock.
Now Inman has taken aim at Jack Steuf, who last week wrote an unflattering profile of the cartoonist at BuzzFeed. (True confession time: I linked to the article in Comics A.M., although by the time I read it, the most egregious error had already been removed.) Inman posted the BuzzFeed article in its entirety and added his own annotations, taking issue with almost every point and ending with the allegation that Steuf had to leave his last job after a fake birthday card that mocked a poem written for Sarah Palin’s son, who has Downs Syndrome.
The most serious error in the BuzzFeed article is that Steuf relied in part on what turned out to be a fake profile of Inman on a website called SodaHead. The profile portrayed Inman as married, with children, and a staunch Republican, none of which is true. In fact, Inman is not married, has no children, and voted for Barack Obama both times. BuzzFeed removed the inaccurate information and added a terse note at the end of the article:
Update: A previous version of this piece linked to a profile that implied Inman was married, had children, and holds certain political beliefs. The profile is a fake. Inman refused to comment for this story, but posted an extended challenge to it on his website.
As mea culpas go, that’s pretty thin gruel. This is bad stuff. It’s poor journalistic practice to trust anything online, and the fault lies not just with the reporter who did it but also with the editor who let it get by. As Slade Sohmer points out in a nice analysis of the situation at HyperVocal, BuzzFeed’s nonchalant response erodes the website’s credibility and, by association, online media in general.
Publishing | Declaring this “the year of The Walking Dead,” the retail news and analysis site ICv2 notes the $60 Compendium volumes One and Two could “easily” be the top-selling graphic novels of 2012. Those two books also topped the Nielsen BookScan chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores in November, joined by six other collections from the acclaimed horror series in the Top 20. Chris Ware’s $50 Building Stories, which has emerged on best-of lists as one of the books — and the graphic novel — of 2012, was No. 3 in November, followed by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, and, in a surprise Top 20 appearance by Marvel, the $75 Avengers Vs. X-Men hardcover at No. 5. [ICv2]
The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman, who was embroiled in a bizarre and hilarious legal dispute over the summer, is now facing another lawsuit, this time from a Massachusetts greeting card company.
Law360 reports that Excelsior Printing Co. on Tuesday sued the popular cartoonist and Papyrus-Recycled Greetings, a subsidiary of American Greetings, claiming they’re using a trademarked name to sell cards based on Inman’s Oatmeal creations. Excelsior insists its recently purchased subsidiary Oatmeal Studios has been using the name to market humorous cards for more than 35 years.
The lawsuit asserts the use of “The Oatmeal” mark will confuse consumers, who may believe the businesses are related. Excelsior asks for unspecified damages and an injunction barring The Oatmeal from using its name in association with greeting cards.
Creators | In the wake of the FunnyJunk/The Oatmeal legal dispute, Ian Pike talks to San Diego-based webcomics creators David King and Phil McAndrew about the problem of having their work re-posted without credit. “If I were to sit there and try to hunt down all the websites that re-post my comics without my name on them,” McAndrew says, “I wouldn’t have any time to draw new stuff. So most of the time I just shrug my shoulders and keep on drawing.” One interesting sidelight is that Matthew Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, has set up a site called BearFood where users can share their favorite webcomics with the appropriate links. [San Diego Reader]
Digital comics | Matt White surveys the digital-first landscape with a look at the strategies (or the lack thereof) from publishers ranging from DC Comics to Viz Media: “While the majority of digital comics are just digitized versions of print comics, available simultaneously (known as ‘day-and-date’) or after the physical version hits shelves, current digital-first offerings seem to represent an alternative, more specific market as publishers begin to treat digital more as a complement to print rather than a replacement.” [Publishers Weekly]
“The logical goals of the lawsuit were accomplished,” Carreon told The Washington Post. “Inman aborted his ‘publicity stunt’ to photograph himself with the proceeds that were intended to go to charity, the court took cognizance of the issues and ordered Inman to deposit evidence of his disposition of the funds, and Inman deposited the evidence of payments made to the charities.”
Of course, Inman intended to give the money to the charities all along, so Carreon suing him to do so is a bit like me suing the sun to force it to rise in the morning. It’s worth noting that Carreon actually filed a motion that would have delayed turning over the money, presumably to prevent Inman from photographing it. In the end, Inman photographed himself with $200,000 of his own cash, which he could do because The Oatmeal pulled in about $500,000 last year.
Anyway, this story still has some legs. Carreon himself is now being sued (by a frivolous litigant, but hey, sauce for the goose), and his threats to sue a blogger who set up a parody site mocking him led the blogger to take the matter to court and ask for a declaratory judgment (basically, legalese for fish or cut bait). And read on for the strange parallel between the site he and his wife maintain and the busted pirate site HTMLComics.com.
Conventions | Creative director Rico Renzi discusses HeroesCon, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend with a three-day event that’s experienced a spike in advance ticket sales: “Stan Lee’s attendance to this year’s show has definitely caused a spike in advance ticket sales from what I can tell. I honestly like the show at just the size it is; it’s just right. I used to hop on a bus from Baltimore to go the NYCC and I loved it for the first couple years. It just got too big for me too enjoy it, you couldn’t walk around without rubbing up against strangers. It’s a great alternative to San Diego now I guess. If you’re looking for a pure comic book show though, HeroesCon is where it’s at.” In addition to Lee, this year’s guests include Neal Adams, Mark Bagley, Cliff Chiang, Frank Cho, Becky Cloonan, Geof Darrow, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Evan Dorkin, Tommy Lee Edwards, Matt Fraction, Francesco Francavilla, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Johnson, Jeff Lemire, Paul Levitz, Mike Mignola, George Perez, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Scott Snyder and Bernie Wrightson. [The Comics Reporter]
Legal | Danny Bradbury takes a look at the financial and copyright aspects of online comics in an insightful article spurred by the recent dust-up between The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk. Among other things, he parses out how The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman makes $500,000 a year from his comic, why Inman and other creators object to their work being published elsewhere without attribution (and why they sometimes don’t care), the legal protections they can use (and how they sometimes fail), and how sites like Pinterest avoid the problem. There’s also an explanation of why FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon is suing Inman et al. on his own behalf, rather than FunnyJunk’s: “Carreon has now effectively abandoned the threat of a FunnyJunk lawsuit, stating that he was misinformed by his client. His letter claimed that all the comics had been removed from FunnyJunk, but Inman pointed out dozens that were still there.” [The Guardian]
Attorney Charles Carreon is the gift that keeps on giving for comics and law bloggers alike.
He’s the lawyer for the website FunnyJunk, which allows users to upload content they find amusing. About a year ago, The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman blasted FunnyJunk for posting a number of his comics without his permission. Two weeks ago, Carreon sent Inman a letter threatening to sue for defamation if he did not pony up $20,000. Inman posted the letter with some snarky commentary and set up a fundraiser on IndieGoGo to raise $20,000. His plan is to send a photo of the money, together with a rude cartoon about the mother of the FunnyJunk owner, to Carreon and donate the cash to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation. More than $200,000 has already been pledged in the fund-raiser. But on Friday, Carreon sued Inman, IndieGoGo, and both charities.
Here’s a quick roundup of recent developments:
FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon has sued not just The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman, with whom he has been in an Internet battle for the past week, but also crowd-funding website Indiegogo, where Inman set up a fund-raiser to spite Carreon — and, apparently, the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation, who are the beneficiaries of the campaign.
Here’s the Courthouse News Service summary of the filing, posted by Ken at Popehat:
“Trademark infringement and incitement to cyber-vandalism. Defendants Inman and IndieGogo are commercial fundraisers that failed to file disclosures or annual reports. Inman launched a Bear Love campaign, which purports to raise money for defendant charitable organizations, but was really designed to revile plaintiff and his client, Funnyjunk.com, and to initiate a campaign of “trolling” and cybervandalism against them, which has caused people to hack Inman’s computer and falsely impersonate him. The campaign included obscenities, an obscene comics and a false accusation that FunnyJunk “stole a bunch of my comics and hosted them.” Inman runs the comedy website The Oatmeal.”
This sounds outrageous on the face of it — who sues the American Cancer Society? — but when blogger Nick Nafpliotis called Carreon and asked why he is trying to shut down the fund-raiser, he responded that Inman and Indiegogo had not filed the proper paperwork, and thus they could just raise the money and pocket it themselves. It’s a fair point, although given the highly public nature of this event, it’s unlikely that Inman would do that. In other words, it’s a technicality. Carreon also took exception to Inman’s public mockery of him:
Awards | Frank Doyle, who wrote thousands of Archie Comics scripts, and Steve Skeates, who wrote for both Marvel and DC Comics, will be honored with this year’s Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. Both were chosen by a unanimous vote of a committee headed by Mark Evanier. The awards will be presented July 13 during the Eisner Awards ceremony at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Comic-Con International]
Legal | The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman’s war with Funnyjunk has heated up the Internets over the past few days, but Andrew Orlowski questions why Inman didn’t simply send FunnyJunk a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act when he realized his comics were being posted without permission. “Without the DMCA, Inman found himself in a knife fight armed with just a stick of celery,” Orlwoski said, and he blames his failure to use it on “nerd web culture.” “Inman didn’t use the ammunition available to him at all — he simply decided to play the victim. Whether he did so through naivety, ignorance or cynicism, it is impossible to say.” [The Register]
Charles Carreon may be a good lawyer, but he has a tin ear when it comes to public relations.
Carreon represents FunnyJunk, which recently demanded that The Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman pay $20,000 or be sued for defamation for complaining that the website permitted users to post his comics without permission. Inman responded by posting the letter on his own site with a series of scornful rejoinders, and then set up an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $20,000 for the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society.
His plan is to take a photo of the cash and send it, along with a drawing of the FunnyJunk owner’s mother attempting to seduce a bear, to the owner of FunnyJunk. The Internet reacted predictably, and Inman has raised more than $125,000 for the two causes, while FunnyJunk and Carreon have attracted, shall we say, a great deal of negative attention.
How could Carreon possibly make this situation worse for himself and his client? By whining and acting like a jerk, that’s how. He told Rosa Golijian of MSNBC’s Digital Life that he had to take his contact information off his website (oh noes!) because of the “string of obscene emails” he received.
And then he asked IndieGoGo to terminate Inman’s fund-raiser, alleging it violates the website’s terms of service. That’s right, Inman raises more than $100,000 for wildlife protection and cancer research, but FunnyJunk’s attorney is going to shut him down.
Or not. Inman doesn’t seem worried; he’s more concerned about whether his bank will let him take out $100,000 so he can photograph it with his rendition of the mother of FunnyJunk’s mother and a bear.
One more thing: Sending the owner of FunnyJunk that cartoon may turn out to be a good deed; after all this attention, he could probably turn around and sell it for enough money to hire another lawyer.
The old definition of chutzpah is a man who murders his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.
The new definition is what the website FunnyJunk has done: It allowed hundreds of The Oatmeal comics to be posted without permission, and then when creator Matthew Inman complained, the site demanded he pay them $20,000 or be sued in federal court for defamation.
Yeah, you read that right.
Creators | Novelist and X-Club writer Simon Spurrier recounts how he gave up his seat on a panel at last weekend’s London Super ComicCon to creator Tammy Taylor, in the spirit of “Panel Parity”: “Paul’s idea is that you can’t expect true gender parity in comics unless you create the conditions to facilitate it. Even if one has to dabble in positive discrimination, even if one must expect outraged cries of ‘tokenism!,’ ‘political correctness gone mad!,’ ‘patronising cockcentric condescension!,’ it’s worth it. So Paul created a movement he called ‘Panel Parity’ in which he planned to exercise the only real power he has – like any of us in the weird world of industry conventions – to make a difference. Paul pledged that whenever he’s invited onto a panel which doesn’t feature at least 50% women, he’ll surrender his own seat to a female speaker. Even if that means tracking down someone less ‘well-suited’ to discussing the topic at hand than himself. Even if it means disappointing people in the crowd who travelled to the show specifically to see him talk. As long as Said SheGuest is able to contribute in some way to the conversation, Paul feels her presence on stage is more valuable than his own. Which is a brave and important and splendid thing to say.” [Simon Spurrier]