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The Second Circuit Court of Appeals handed Marvel a significant victory this morning, upholding a 2011 ruling that Jack Kirby’s contributions to the publisher in the 1960s were work for hire, and therefore not subject to copyright reclamation by the artist’s heirs.
However, as Tom Spurgeon first reported, the appellate court vacated the New York district judge’s summary ruling against two of Kirby’s children, California residents Lisa and Neal, on jurisdictional grounds; the judgment against Susan and Barbara stands.
Secondarily, the Second Circuit upheld the lower court’s exclusion of expert testimony offered by John Morrow and Mark Evanier on behalf of the Kirby heirs, agreeing that “their reports are by and large undergirded by hearsay statements, made by freelance artists in both formal and informal settings, concerning Marvel’s general practices towards its artists during the relevant time period.”
We’ve seen comic-book superheroes take the movie world by storm, but Italian art teacher Zach Roper has taken the trend one step further by creating some inspired mash-ups mixing Marvel heroes with recent cult hits.
“After seeing the recent Wolverine movie and being (once again) disappointed at another halfhearted adaptation, I got to thinking about which directors would be perfect for my favorite comic book characters,” Roper tells ROBOT 6. “I’ve begun working on some sketches of how these characters might appear in each of the films, and here they are!”
As Stan Lee sayings go, “Every comic book is someone’s first” isn’t quite as well-known as “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s nevertheless one that comics editors and creators should integrate and internalize just as thoroughly. It’s probably much less true today, now that comics are sold primarily through specialty shops (and, increasingly, online) instead of on newsstands and spinner racks, than whenever Lee first said it.
But regardless of whether Executive Assistant Assassins #13, Fearless Defenders #7 or Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #81 — to pick three titles from this week’s shipping list — will actually be anyone’s first comic book, as long as publishers continue to sell comics as serialized stories, then the thought that one of those could be someone’s introduction is a pretty good guiding principle for creating those comics.
With that in mind, this week I read a handful of second issues of some prominent new books from the biggest players in the direct market, with an eye toward how friendly the material might be toward a new reader starting the series — or comics in general — with that issue.
In case you didn’t notice, Comic-Con International happened last weekend. As always, it was an epic affair with tons of announcements, stunts and surprises. Amid cannons firing, actors dressing up as themselves, and big movie plans, there were also a good number of genuine surprises from comics.
Usually I end up picking a winner of Comic-Con, but after Dynamite Entertainment flooded the air waves with announcements the days before the event, no one else seemed to stand out as the clear winner. It’s not that everyone slacked off, however: They brought a good variety of interesting and exciting projects, and a number of standout announcements made my ears perk up. So instead of declaring a winner, I’m going to run down my Top 6 Comic-Con surprises in comics.
Before I start, though, two publishers deserve a little recognition for serious contenders for the Comic-Con crown. Top Shelf Productions classed up the joint by bringing in Congressman John Lewis for the debut of his graphic novel, March: Book One with artist Nate Powell and co-writer Andrew Aydin. I have little doubt this trilogy will end up being a historic release with profound benefits for schools, libraries and organizations looking for a powerful teaching tool and first=person account of the Civil Rights Movement and non-violent resistance. Plus, come on, photos of Lewis meeting Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lou Ferrigno? Everybody else, just pack it up. Maybe not as much of a milestone, but IDW Publishing also deserves a nod for the pure quantity and variety of good-looking books announced.
OK, on with my list:
Animation designer Andry Rajoelina has created an uplifting, and occasionally funny, series of prints featuring the families of superheroes. That’s “family” as in Superman Family, not as in Jonathan, Martha and Clark Kent. The first set was focused on DC, but he’s now done a second group with Marvel characters.
Some of the characters, but not all, are biologically related, and that’s part of what makes the series so heart-warming. One of the nicest, most reassuring messages of the X-Men was always that people without families could form their own. (I’ve always loved the idea of the X-Men as a family much more than the idea of them as a school.) Rajoelina’s two series highlight that. They focus on adult/child relationships (the Fantastic Four leaves out Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, for example), but Rajoelina is able to figure out a workaround for Green Lantern, even if it’s a little sad in a humorous way.
Prints of the Justice Families series can be purchased at the Geek Art Store.
Inspired by Brett White’s recent Comic Book resources column, Evan Shaner gathered together old sketches of his favorite X-Men, “yearbook-style,” which in turn inspired some other artists to draw their own top picks — as if ripped from the pages of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters/Jean Grey School for Higher Learning annual: Uncanny X-Force‘s Kris Anka, Thugg, Russel Dauterman, George Kambadais and, to bring everything full circle, Brett White.
You can see Shaner and Kambadais’ contributions in full below, with the others at their respective links.
It’s not that long since we featured Butcher Billy’s New Wave Justice League, but here’s another artist working a similar beat: James Zark‘s punk rock/X-Men mash-up, the X-Pistols. James is selling prints of these designs through his Society 6 storefront. Above is Glenn Danzig as Wolverine, but my favorite is the Debbie Harry-as-Phoenix one, which is also available as a pillowcase. And why not? Throw pillows are punk, too. See them all after the break.
The new X-Men title by Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel, which debuted Wednesday, has received a lot of attention for its all-female team. Honestly, when I heard the news, I didn’t find it surprising — in fact, I had to ask myself, “Is this really the first time we’ve had an all-female cast in the X-Men?” As an old-school Chris Claremont X-fan, I guess I’m used to characters like Storm, Rogue and Kitty Pryde having as much prominence on the team as Cyclops, Colossus and … yeah, I was going to put Wolverine there, but he’s always been in a class by himself due to his popularity. But you get where I’m coming from.
There were certainly X-Men stories where the women outnumbered the men during Claremont’s run — I’m thinking of an issue where Wolverine, Shadowcat, Rogue and Rachel Grey, I believe, were on a mission, and Wolverine turned leadership over to Kitty because he didn’t like being leader and she had “seniority” — but I can’t think of a time when they were male-less for a significant period. If someone pops up in our comments section to tell me otherwise, though, I won’t be surprised, because the X-franchise just seems like the natural place where this would happen. It’s notable that just about every one of the main characters in the book were co-created by Claremont, the only exception being Storm, who was actually created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. But Claremont obviously put his stamp on the character in his long run on Uncanny X-Men.
But yeah, a female X-team? It’s been a long time coming, if indeed it has never occurred. But enough about the make-up of the team; how was the book itself? Here are a few opinions on the first issue from around the internet, and you can check out the CBR poll to see that almost half of respondents gave it five out of five stars:
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors runs the numbers on Free Comic Book Day: 1.2 million fans went to 2,000 participating comics shops and picked up 4.6 million free comics, generating $2.2 million worth of publicity along the way. And fans reported on their experience with more than 66,000 tweets with the FCBD hashtags. [ICv2]
Conventions | The Philadelphia Daily News previews this weekend’s Wizard World Philadelphia, which marks the return of Marvel after a several-year absence. [Philadelphia Daily News]
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. While most readers in the United States are enjoying a three-day weekend, our contributors are already looking to the week ahead, from the comics arriving on shelves Wednesday to 2D, the Northern Ireland Comics Festival, which kicks off Thursday.
The mythologies built by comics, particularly superhero comics, is often pointed out as one of the great accomplishments of the medium.
There’s no doubt the Marvel and DC universes are impressive feats of world-building. In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe proclaimed the Marvel Universe “the most intricate fictional narrative in the history of the world”. If you discount DC because of its various universe resets from Crises and Flashpoints and what-have-yous, I guess that’s true. Whoever gets to wear the crown, both sets of characters have been generating dozens of stories, usually hundreds of stories, every month since the late 1930s. Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon universe might be in third place.
Of course, superhero comics aren’t alone in this: In Japan, popular manga series also tend to get pretty long in the tooth. Osamu Akimoto’s police comedy Kochikame has been running weekly since 1976, resulting in more than 1,700 chapters collected in nearly 200 volumes. Takao Saito’s twice-monthly crime manga Golgo 13 is older, having launched in 1969. One Piece has 69 volumes, Naruto has 64, and Bleach 58.
These are amazing accomplishments, but we don’t appreciate the satisfying arc of a finite story often enough.
Marvel history is filled with grudges, the kind that aren’t settled with harsh words and tough love over warm tea. Nope, they’re settled with fists — or sometimes claws, hammers or psychic blasts. WeLoveFine celebrates three of these ongoing rivalries with some new shirts featuring playbills for the brawl-to-end-all: Professor X vs. Magneto, Thor vs. Loki and Wolverine vs. Sabretooth.
I have it on good authority that they’re hoping to do more of them, so who would you like to see next? Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus? Captain America vs. The Red Skull? Howard the Duck vs. Dr. Bong? Share your ideas in the comments section.
Are you getting excited? New teasers and trailers are being released almost every day now. The countdown to Summer Movie Season is officially on, and the big blockbusters adapting comics are looking promising. Iron Man 3 has an armada of armors flying around; can’t really go wrong there. The Wolverine has ninjas as far as the eye can see. And the bearded and brooding Man of Steel might even end up being good. Throw in a little Kick-Ass 2 and RED 2, sprinkle with R.I.P.D. and 300: Rise of an Empire, and top it off with 2 Guns, and you’ve got yourself one fun summer.
While we still get clunkers, the ratio of good to suck has definitely improved. It used to be that the old chestnut response to a movie adapted from a novel could be more often than not applied to movies adapted from comics: The book was better. And it’s often still true. But there are times when the movies do it better than comics, and while that’s great for the filmmakers and audiences, in a way it’s an indictment on the comics-makers.
Comics offer more boundless creativity than almost any medium. With comics, there’s no studio executive, no creation-by-committee made up of shareholders and board members with less experience creating and telling stories than their companies’ interns. It’s why Tony Stark being an alcoholic doesn’t fly with Disney and was removed from Iron Man 3. Comics can still include collaboration and compromise but they can just as easily be the result of a single voice. Even with the most heavy-handed editorially mandated comics, they’re still created by a fraction of people needed to make a Hollywood movie. Comics are generally more spontaneous, imaginative and clever than most major studio movies. But sometimes, Hollywood gets the jump on comics.
Happy Saturday and welcome to Shelf Porn, where fans show us their collections. Today’s shelves come from Nicholas in Illinois, who shows us his comics, action figures, statues and other collectibles.
If you’d like to submit your collection, find all the details on how to do that here.
And now let’s turn things over to Nicholas …
YouTube link-clicking has replaced channel-surfing in my house these days, so I happened upon this fantastic video from science guy Vsauce called “Is Your Red the Same As My Red?” It’s about color comparison, qualia, the explanatory gap and the theory of mind, and it’s a fantastic watch at around 10 minutes. So check it out when you’re in a Mr. Wizardy or Bill Nye-ish sort of mood and learn why painting a room with a spouse can become quite a challenge when no one can really explain what an off-white means to them.
This, of course, got me thinking about comics. Despite the basic “refracted light” of basic character bios, I’m pretty sure not every fan sees the same characters on the page. Our own influences, when we started reading, what popular culture was thinking at the time, there are so many exterior conditions that can bring a hero or villain to popularity or disuse that I can’t imagine what it’s like for the House of Ideas to try to single out a “new hit” to promote. Take Rogue, for example: At heart, she’s a scrappy Southern gal who can’t touch anyone for fear of draining their life force. Pretty basic, but when colored by the reader’s perception, this could be a metaphor for trauma survivors, an example of teenage physical anxieties, just a dangerous “bad girl” who tantalizes you by being actually physically dangerous, or a number of things. All of these reasons can catch the imaginations of fans and keep them reading, each for their own purposes.