Distortion Field

It is such a pleasure when a new R.C. Harvey column comes in. Today, we bring you his thoughts on the primary artists behind Barney Google: Billy DeBeck, Fred Lasswell, and John Rose. A short sample:

Barney’s eyes stayed the same size for as long as he appeared in the strip, but the rest of him didn’t. When the strip started, he was as tall as his wife, but he shortly started losing altitude, and by 1921, Barney was a gnomish wart, a scrunched-down jot of his former tittle, a pipsqueak mote of a homunculus—a perfect comic runt of a character who looked as outlandishly funny as his obsessions were fanatical.

And there are way too many things worth linking to recently for some reason. I'm not going to get to them all, but here goes.

On Tuesday I mentioned going to the Met to examine portraits of George Washington. I also went to visit the "Infinite Jest" exhibit of caricatures there, which I recommend to anyone in the New York area over the next week. David Bromwich has a well-considered review in the New York Review of Books, and my wife stole a blog post idea from me about it here.

In a recently posted letter to his employer, Al Hirschfeld, one of the few 20th century caricaturists in the show (and Bromwich is right when he says the selection gets pretty shaky post-1800), demonstrates how to ask for a raise.

Devlin Thompson finds a Chris Ware anecdote regarding Battlestar Galactica glasses that is too strange not to be true.

Michael Dooley posts some great Alan Takemoto images from the forgotten Japanese American underground Gidra.

Rob Clough takes mild issue with Sean T. Collins's review on this website of Ryan Standfest's Black Eye.

Matt Seneca likes it when Roy Crane draws women getting spanked and men getting punched.

Kate Beaton's Tumblr post q&a of advice to aspiring cartoonists has been deservedly getting a lot of link attention elsewhere, but on the off chance you haven't read it yet, you should.

Via Forbidden Planet, here are video interviews of Joe Sacco and Craig Thompson being interviewed at Angoulême.

For Hero Complex, Neal Adams pays tribute to Kirby, Lee, and Ditko.

Maira Kalman fills out a questionnaire.

And finally, video from Richard Thompson's appearance at last fall's National Book Festival.


Interest in Context

Today on the site: Shaenon Garrity on Jenn Manley Lee’s Dicebox, color and web comics in print.

Elsewhere it's a mixed assortment of linkage:

Chris Oliveros went to New Dehli for India Comic-Con. Zander and Kevin Cannon, David Burnett and Oleg Terenchuk have started Crowded Comics, a new web site with which readers can supply the captions for editorial cartoons. Other readers have supplied 1.2 million dollars for a reprint program for the web comic Order of the Stick. That's a lot of dollars. The Beat breaks it down. Younger readers (or rather, their parents) will want to check out Johanna Draper Carlson's preview of forthcoming releases from Toon Books. And readers of all kinds, of my kind, even, should know of the graphic novel finalists for the LA Times Book Prize.

“I Will Bite You! And Other Stories” by Joseph Lambert (Secret Acres)
“Celluloid” by Dave McKean (Fantagraphics)
“Finder: Voice” by Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)
“Congress of the Animals” by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
“Garden” by Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)

Ross Campbell has been making interesting comics for a while and now he's part of the Liefeld-verse revival. Here's an interview. In old comics news, here are a couple of excellent stories by Dick Ayers at his goriest.

And finally, hey, don't forget to sign up for Frank's correspondence course. Enrollment ends this week. That means you. And you. And you, too.


Holiday’s Over

Those of you who aren't American may not know that the United States has a day set aside every year for its citizens to celebrate "the Presidents." That national holiday was yesterday, and Dan and I spent it in the approved fashion. (I visited the portraits gallery in the new American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and inspected the Gilbert Stuarts, and Dan set out his collection of memorial plates from the Franklin Mint.) This is why there was no new content up. But everything is back on track now.

Today, as every Tuesday, Joe McCulloch shares his thoughts on the most interesting-sounding new comics of the week.

Frank Santoro has the final installment of his West Coast tour diary—this time hitting Fantagraphics home territory and including cameos from many Journal fan favorites, as well as a stop in Vancouver to visit Brandon Graham and Inkstuds host Robin McConnell. By the way, this is the final week to sign up for Frank's upcoming cartoonists' correspondence course—head this way if you're interested.

Speaking of Journal contributors, Sean T. Collins has recent reviews of Optic Nerve 12 and Onward to Our Noble Deaths. And Tucker Stone has his usual round-up of comics reviews. I like how he's been including more older titles in his column recently—this time, he features Plastic Man and Lone Wolf & Cub.

Eddie Campbell was interviewed on video at Angoulême, and, later on his blog, discovered a couple secret "drawing references" used by Sheldon Modoff for his Batman comics.

Tom Spurgeon worries about the long-term (and short-term) financial health of the comics field and its participants, and Bryan Munn ponders previous attempts at unionization within comics, and the possibility of starting a new union now. (Those are the two must-read non-TCJ posts of today, I'd say, if you're going to pick and choose.)

At the fairly new website Weird Fiction Review, Edward Gauvin compares David B.'s Littlest Pirate King with the prose story that inspired it, Pierre Mac Orlan’s “Roi Rose”.

Finally, Robert Crumb is in India, and Rodrigo Baeza has gathered links to local news coverage worth reading.


You’re the Best Around

As is his wont (and his annual duty), Rob Clough has chosen the thirty best minicomics of 2011.

And now we say goodbye to Tom Scioli, whose final Cartoonist's Diary entry is up today.

Elsewhere, the Frank Santoro/Brandon Graham Inkstuds interview that Dan mentioned yesterday is now online, and you can listen to it here. And speaking of Frank, did we ever link to this video of his recent Mission appearance?

excerpts from frank santoro’s comic book layout workshop from chris anthony diaz on Vimeo.

Following up on another lead from Dan's post: One of our greatest comics-scan bloggers, Pappy, brings us a Joe Maneely classic this morning.

Alan Bisbort has a truly must-read interview with Bill Griffith.

I don't want to link to any more Before Watchmen commentary if I can help it, but the artist James Romberger maybe gets an exception. Or at least he asked me nicely enough. He writes about the project, and the original's controversial rape scene, here.

David Brothers tries to figure out whether some scanned & pirated comics may have come from someone at Marvel itself.

Finally, Tom Spurgeon gathers up the most recent developments regarding the Marvel/Ghost Rider/Gary Friedrich situation, and makes some very cogent remarks about it. The whole thing seems more confusing to me each day, and definitely bears continued attention. [Let me clarify that a bit—I am confused about exactly what Marvel hoped to accomplish with the $17,000 counter-suit, whether Marvel is actually expecting to get it, whether it's meant to be a shot across the bow, or has just been misunderstood -- or both. On the larger questions of whether or not Marvel has been behaving properly towards Friedrich, I have no doubt: they haven't been.]



Today on the site:

Brandon Soderberg joins TCJ with a review of the great Canadian graphic novella Streakers. I learned about this one last year at TCAF -- a real treat. And Tom Scioli brings the Barbarian with Day 4 of his diary.

Frank Santoro Alert: Our man will be live on Inkstuds This thursday at 3pm PST, 6pm EST. You can listen live at Robin McConnell is encouraging call-in questions: 604-822-2487!

And elsewhere online...

Swiped from Kate Beaton's Twitter feed -- a generous blog from Eleanor Davis. On other blogs, Ryan Cecil Smith has a great bit on Charles Addams and here's five fine Victorian comic strips. Not comics, but relevant, writer Steven Johnson on e-books and reading onscreen. Here's a prime Western comic book featuring work by the late John Severin (and the always underrated Joe Maneely), via Tom Spurgeon. More olden comics comes from Matt Seneca on Joe Kubert's Hawkman.

And finally, a very funny review of the movie The Vow from Lisa Hanawalt. I never thought Rachel McAdams could top that time travel romance, but now...


And Other Stories

News of the death of legendary cartoonist John Severin spread yesterday. Steve Ringgenberg wrote a fine obituary of Severin for us, and we have also re-published Gary Groth's exhaustive two-part 1999 interview with the artist from The Comics Journal 215 and 216. It is sad to realize how few of the great cartoonists of that era are still with us.

Tom Scioli continues his Cartoonist's Diary for us, with day three of his trip to Angoulême.

Mike Dawson has returned to the podcasting "booth" and has a new episode of TCJ Talkies out this morning, this time an interview with Hicksville creator Dylan Horrocks, with whom he discusses various comics-world news items of recent days, including the Before Watchmen announcement, and the Marvel/Gary Friedrich case.

Speaking of Gary Friedrich, Stephen Bissette has posted the following message on Facebook, asking for it to be passed along by others:

ALERT, ALL COMICS CREATORS [Reposting, for a necessary (requested) edit; reposting all comments, too, after this main post. Apologies.]: With permission, I'm quoting key points my dear friend and own legal advisor/contract consultant (since 1992) Jean-Marc Lofficier raised on his posts to a Yahoo forum discussing Ty Templeton's cartoon concerning the Gary Friedrich v Marvel judgment. Jean-Marc succinctly notes WHY this judgment has changed EVERYTHING for anyone who has worked for Marvel, or what this judgment changes (probably irrevocably) about the landscape for all concerned:

"...with all due respect to Ty, he's talking (drawing?) out of his ass.

So to clarify again, here is what I thought is important to remember here:

1) This is the first time Marvel is using convention sales of copyrighted Marvel characters as a "weapon". They are of course perfectly entitled to do so, legally speaking. But it does mean that, from now on, all of you here who draw sketches of Marvel characters for money at conventions or sell sketchbooks containing pictures of Marvel characters are on notice that you might be sued (usually for triple the amount you made) should Marvel decide to go after you.

My legal advice to you guys is simple: STOP and destroy all sketchbooks for sale with copyrighted materials in it. I'm serious. You've just been put on notice by this case.

[Note: In a followup comment to a question on the matter of selling sketches/sketchbooks at conventions featuring Marvel characters, Jean-Marc added:]

If Disney and/or Marvel have a policy to deal with that sort of business, I would encourage anyone planning to sell sketches, etc. to contact them and obtain a waiver or a permission of some kind under that program.

--- [name withdrawn] is incorrect about one thing: Disney, if not Marvel, does have a full office staffed with para legals of young lawyers whose only job is to look for copyright/tm infringements and send C&D (cease & desist) letters. I have seen them. They don't do it for the money or to be a pain the the ass, they do it based on the legal theory that if you don't actively protect your (c)/tm, you run the risk of it being used against you as an affirmative defense in an infringement case.

Based on the GHOST RIDER case, it is, in my opinion, only a matter of time until Disney, now aware of the issue, sends one of their young attorneys with a stash of blank C&D letters at conventions and start handing them out to everyone selling Marvel sketches without authorization.

Receiving that letter will oblige you to hire a lawyer and even if Disney lets you off the hook (which they probably will), you might be out of a couple of grands by the time the process is over -- or you run the risk of being stuck with a $15K bill if you fight them.

Again, I emphasize: this is sound business practice for Disney; NOT doing it entails risks far greater than doing it. They have gone after children's nurseries before which had Mickey painted on their walls for the same exact legal reason. And that was far more time consuming and bad PR-wise that going after some comic book guys at artist's alleys.

It is only a matter of time.

So if they have a waiver/permission program as Ivan says, join it; if not, stop.

[Back to Jean-Marc's original, full post:]

2) Although there never was any serious dispute that Marvel owned whatever share of GR Gary Friedrich was claiming (personally, I'm not a mind reader but I think Friedrich was hoping for some kind of settlement), there remains two legal issues that Ty obviously didn't grasp:

2.1) When Moebius drew his SILVER SURFER with Stan Lee, he got royalties and he was still getting them when Starwatcher split in 2000. You will note that modern-day WFH agreements spell out that the money you're getting will be the sole compensation you will ever receive and you're not entitled to anything else. It is spelled out because if it is not, courts are at liberty to interpret the contract and decide whether or not you should be gettong something extra.

The back-of-the-check contract signed by Gary did transfer ownership of GR to Marvel, and the amount of that check was the consideration for publishing rights, but nowhere did it actually state (as it does today) that it was the ONLY consideration to which Gary might be entitled in the event of a film or a TV series. The Court could have easily decided that on the absence of that clause, Gary was owed something.

2.2.) There is a famous case about singer Peggy Lee who won her suit against Disney for their reuse of her songs in LADY & THE TRAMP on video, because that medium didn't exist when she signed her original agreement with the Mouse, and contracts at that time didn't specify the now standard "and other media to be invented in the future". The Court chose to interpret that lack of specificity in favor of Peggy Lee. When Marvel sold the rights to GR to the studio which produced it, they likely sold the video, DVD and game rights. These media did not exist when Friedrich signed his back of the check contract which did not list any and all future media. Therefore, based on the Peggy Lee case, the Court could have found that Marvel didn't own those rights, and therefore couldn't resell them, or, as in the Peggy Lee case, simply that they owe the plaintiff some kind of percentage, that's all.

So it remains my contention that Marvel owes "something" to Friedrich (and Ploog as well) based not on the publishing, but purely on the disposition of the multimedia rights to GR. That the Judge decided otherwise is a tough break for creators, and unjust.

3) Which brings me to my next point, which is that documentary standards are being unfairly applied throughout the judicial system, and somehow mistakes always seem to favor the corporations, not the small guy. The enforceability of a contract depends on accurate documentation which must be produced in Court. If you have a mortgage, but the bank cannot produce your properly signed promissory note, then the court has the possibility of nullifying your mortgage. It's happened in a few rare cases, but more often than not, people have been thrown out of their homes despite banks being unable to produce a properly signed note.

In this case, has any of you seen the back of the check signed by Friedrich?
Was that check properly endorsed? Was there anything crossed out? Why should mistakes in documentation automatically benefit the corporations, and the little guy should be held to standards of evidence that the companies themselves don't respect? Why did the Judge assume that the paperwork was in order & automatically benefited Marvel? What I'm saying is, if people can lose their homes despite proper paperwork, well, then, Marvel could lose GR despite its paperwork. It's up to the Court.

So whether or not you feel any sympathy for Gary and his cause, this is another loss for the Little Guy which, in the greater scheme of things, impacts all of us."


And QUIT doing, creating, selling ANY sketches or sketchbooks or prints featuring Marvel/Disney characters, IMMEDIATELY. And let fans know WHY you are no longer doing them, and/or CANNOT do them ever again.

This Fast Company story about Before Watchmen has Alan Moore revealing some new information about his original contract with DC. The article also has new preview art from the project, which is kind of weird, considering the overall scathing nature of the piece.

Speaking of Before Watchmen (and I really hope not to do so too many more times!), Eddie Campbell pulled out a particularly mind-boggling quote on the project from Brian Azzarello.

The Journal's own Bob Levin wrote a story for the Broad Street Review about surviving a second heart attack.

The Journal's own Kristy Valenti wrote a Valentine's Day tribute to Frank Miller's Ronin.

The Journal's own Chris Mautner picks six comic strips that ended too soon.

The Journal's own Dan Nadel messed up his planned promotional efforts and has outsourced the announcement of Brian Chippendale's resumed Puke Force to me. Luckily I like the strip a lot—otherwise I'd feel a little like I'd completely lost my dignity...

Finally, Peter Bagge talks to Stüssy.


Anything But the Comics

Slow news day here...

On the site today: Joe McCulloch's Week in Comics and Day 2 of Tom Scioli's Diary, going ever deeper into Angouleme.

Elsewhere, Michael Kupperman will be on The Best Show today on WFMU (via). And we missed this earlier, but Kim Deitch wrote a fine tribute to his first publisher, Joel Fabrikant. Over at 4th Letter! David Brothers has a discussion on comics piracy with an active comments section. And congrats to Dave Kiersh on getting his graphic novel funded.





Lighting Out

Dan Nadel talks to the artist Jim Shaw about his most recent book, comics, and their relationship to his own work. A brief excerpt:

After seeing the Sistine Chapel and thinking how radical a piece of art it was and so wanting to work in the figurative, I realized that comics are one of the only art forms where the figure has any legitimate use, so I’m glad to be working in it.

The artist behind American Barbarian and Godland Tom Scioli begins his week writing our Cartoonist's Diary. It takes place in France.

Frank Santoro continues his West Coast tour, and writes about ice skating with Snoopy.

And Kristian Williams reviews Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart's Batman vs. Robin.

Whew, lots of stuff today. Okay, and elsewhere, Journal columnist Rob Clough picks his top fifteen books of 2011, Alan Moore writes a column for the BBC on Occupy Wall Street and V for Vendetta, and Greg Hunter at Big Other writes about how recent Marvel-related events have colored the way he reads Michael Chabon's new short story. (Jeet Heer had similar misgivings in the comments section of this blog.) Finally, Tom Spurgeon delivers twenty-one thoughts on the Before Watchmen announcement.