The legacy of Joe Kubert is rich and varied, from his school to his work on Sgt. Rock, Hawkman and other DC Comics properties. But one aspect of his career isn’t often a focus: He was among the first comic book professional to own his own character, predating the current creator-owned movement by more than 50 years.
The prehistoric Tor first appeared in 1,000,000 Years Ago #1, published in 1953 and edited by Joe Kubert and Norman Maurer. Its contents were owned by the book’s publisher, St. John Publications. But then in 1958, St. John abandoned comics and simply turned the rights to Tor over to Kubert.
How did he pull that off? By asking. As Tom Spurgeon’s obituary at The Comics Reporter explains, “Kubert said that receiving the copyright on Tor was as simple as requesting from the heir to the St. John publishing enterprise that the copyright be returned to him after the publisher had moved away from comics. The legally appropriate person provided a letter doing just that.”
If only it were that easy now!
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, it’d be an eclectic bunch featuring Jesus clones, retired spec-ops workers, environmentalists and Batman. First up would be Punk Rock Jesus #2 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), following Sean Murphy’s big-time foray into writing and drawing. Murphy’s delivering the art of his career, and while the story might not be as great as the art, it still has a synchronicity to the art that few other mainstream books have these days. After that I’d get Dancer #4 (Image, $3.50); Nathan Edmondson seemingly made his name on writing the spy thriller Who Is Jake Ellis?, and this one takes a very different view of the spy game – like a Luc Besson movie, perhaps – and Nic Klein is fast climbing up my list of favorite artists. After that I’d get Massive #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50), with what is disheartedly looking to be the final issue of artist Kristian Donaldson. No word on the reason for the departure, but with a great a story he and Brian Wood have developed I hope future artists can live up to the all-too-brief legacy he developed. Delving into superhero waters, the next book I’d get is Batman #12 (DC, $3.99), which has become DC’s consistently best book out of New 52 era. Finally, I’d get Anti #1 (12 Guage, $1). Cool cover, interesting concept, and only a buck. Can’t beat that.
If I had $30, I’d jump and get Creator-Owned Heroes #3 (Image, $3.99); man, when Phil Noto is “on” he’s “ON!” After that I’d get Conan te Barbarian #7 (Dark Horse, $3.50). I’ve been buying and reading this in singles, but last weekend I had the chance to re-read them all in one sitting and I’m legitimately blown away. The creators have developed something that is arguably better than what Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord started in 2003 and shoulder-to-shoulder with the great stories out of the ’70s. This new issue looks to be right up my alley, as Conan takes his pirate queen Belit back to his frigid homeland in search of a man masquerading as Conan. Hmm, $7 left. Any other Food or Comic-ers want to grab some grub?
If I could splurge, I’d excuse myself from the table dining with my fellow FoCers and get Eyes of the Cat HC (Humanoids, $34.95). I feel remiss in never owning this, so finally getting my hands on the first collaboration between Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky seems like a long time coming. I’m told its more an illustrated storybook than comic book, but I’m content with full page Moebius work wherever I can get it.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Mouse Guard is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes - With the Flight anthologies done, the all-ages version, Flight Explorer has morphed into this. I expect it to be as lovely as its predecessors and especially like the Mystery Box theme.
Jinx – J Torres and Rick Burchett’s graphic novel aimed at tween girls.
Kevin Keller, Volume 1 and Kevin Keller #1 – Archie collects the first appearances and mini-series of their major, gay character and also launches his ongoing series.
Flash Gordon: Vengeance of Ming – The third volume in Ardden’s Flash Gordon series.
Last week, Phil and Kaja Foglio announced a whole slew of new projects tied to their long-running webcomic Girl Genius: Prose novels, audiobooks of the prose novels, games, a Danish translation of the comic, and a full-color omnibus edition of the first three volumes of the Girl Genius comic, to be published by Tor to kick off their new graphic novel line. Come 2011, it seems, Girl Genius will be everywhere.
Curious about how this came about and how it will play out, I called Phil yesterday and asked a bunch of questions. Here’s what he has to say.
Brigid: Why are all these things happening at the same time?
Phil: I was working with our agent ages ago, and the first thing of course we sent out were the graphic novels, and they got circulated around, everybody looked at them and were like, “Wow, we love this story but this isn’t what we do.” Then when we had the novel finished, or finished enough, we sent that to the agent and he sent it around, and one of the responses we got was, “You know, we read the novel and we remembered how much we loved the graphic novel. We aren’t interested in publishing the novel, but we would like to publish the graphic novels.” So the one reminded them of the other.
Over on his blog, Bob Fingerman says that he recently sold his second novel, a zombie thriller titled Pariah, to Tor:
The interesting thing is that part of my deal with Tor is to provide the book with some original interior art (I might do the cover, too, but that is pending). My approach is not to do illustrations of any scenes or characters in the book. I prefer to let the readers picture that for themselves. Instead, one of the characters is an artist and he does studies of the undead to pass the time (no more TV or Internet, so one must pass the time doing something). The conceit of the accompanying art will be that these are his drawings. I don’t want any of the art to be typical EC-tinged stuff. The approach is to do sensitive, objective drawings. The zombies didn’t ask to be this way. They’re not evil.
Sounds like an intriguing approach. Above is an example of what he’s talking about. And Fingerman says he might post some rejected sketches from the project soon.