After the success of the most recent Superman film (and made hundreds of millions of dollars), Michael Dean has written “Who Owns the Man of Steel?”, a history of the rights battle over the character to show who exactly is getting paid, and why, and a good primer for those who haven’t followed the situation closely:
You may be forgiven if you’ve lost track of who owns the rights to the protagonist of Man of Steel. On the other hand, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the legal seesaw between the heirs of Superman’s creators and Warner/DC landed solidly in favor of the corporation earlier this year, just before the release of its big-budget tent-pole movie.
An appeal of a ruling against the heirs of Joe Shuster is pending, but it is before the same appeals court that ruled against the Siegel heirs in January. Warner Senior Vice-President of Corporate Communications Paul McGuire told the Journal a ruling on that appeal is expected soon.
Marc Toberoff, attorney for the heirs, vowed to continue the fight. Warner, however, considered itself the winner of not just the battle but the war. “This is a great day for Superman, for his fans, for DC Entertainment and for Warner Bros,” the company announced, following the court’s latest ruling against Siegel’s heirs. If this is the end of what has been an epic struggle over control of one of the world’s most valuable properties, how happy an end is it? Is it really a great day for Superman, his corporate owners, and his fans? And what kind of day is it for comics creators?
—The Harvey Award nominations have been announced.
Good morning, folks. Today we have another review from the indefatigable Rob Clough, this time his take on Thomas Herpich’s White Clay. Here’s a sample:
“Mensch” and “The Wedding Cauldron” are examples of just how comfortable Herpich is working in a fantasy milieu, even if both go way beyond the scope of a typical fantasy story. “Mensch” is about a soldier in some ancient war who falls and is replaced by a different version of himself, a better version who had been the better nature of himself that he had long ignored. Once again, the idea that there’s a better version of one’s self that’s lurking out there, waiting to take over comes to the fore in this comic. The real kicker is that Herpich convinces the reader that this other self deserves to take over. “The Wedding Cauldron” is about a man discovering these impish little shape-changing creatures who perform mischief at a wedding he doesn’t really want to be attending. The melancholy fellow feels his spirits lifted by following them into the forest, even as the imps are terrified that he will kill them, especially since one of their disguises works so poorly. Once again, Herpich is interested in people hiding and literally changing their identities, only it’s from an outside perspective this time around.
—Interviews Dept.Journal writer Chris Mautner interviews Journal writer Marc Sobel about Sobel’s new book, The Love and Rockets Companion. ICv2 interviews the indescribable Jack Katz on the republication of his First Kingdom.
—History Dept. No one’s going to beat this series of posts by Todd Klein on the history of DC Comics for a while. Start here and keep going. And Ladies Making Comics does a short profile of the under-appreciated Dori Seda.
Tributes to Kim Thompson are continuing to come in, most recently from Paul Baresh, Bob Burden, Drew Friedman, Francesca Ghermandhi, and Jim Woodring. Here’s a bit of Woodring’s:
Kim was a master of social jiu-jitsu. When a well-known sci-fi writer gratuitously insulted him, publicly and in terms that would have driven most people into a vengeful rage, Kim absorbed it with his well-known chuckle, effectively neutralizing the venom and making the writer look like even more of a jerk. But his unruffled exterior masked a passionate nature and a gift for lethal invective. Like Mark Twain, when he had a grievance he would sometimes express his true feelings in a self-gratifyingly unrestrained letter that would never be sent, followed by the calm, rational, and eminently professional response that was his official reply. In my archives is a copy of a magnificently unpublishable screed he wrote but never sent to a business acquaintance, a letter which still makes my head spin with its relentless onslaught of caustic virtuosity. He could have been a polemicist as good (and as savage) as Philip Wylie or Christopher Hitchens if he had chosen to.
—Columbia University’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library has acquired the archives of Al Jaffee. This is excellent news. I once had the opportunity to look at some of that work in person, and it was among the most impressive original comic art I’ve ever seen.
Ware, who has often compared comics to music, uses the red circle as a visual leitmotif, a “short, repeated musical theme” that he associates with Brown and threads throughout the comic’s two narratives. It first appears as the razor’s cap and then as a pushpin holding up photos of the astronaut and his “first and only true love.”
It’s Tuesday, which means Joe McCulloch is here with his regular guide to the Week in Comics.
Also, if it’s been a while since you checked in with our collection of tributes to Kim Thompson, you’ll want to take another look at it soon. New additions have continued to roll in, most recently from Kim’s Fantagraphics colleagues Jason T. Miles and Kristy Valenti, as well as an essay-length remembrance from Gary Groth.
I’ve sketched the highlights of Kim’s “career” (he would understand and appreciate the quotation marks — neither of us thought of this as a “career”), but it barely scratches the surface — it’s impossible to adequately convey his devotion to specific projects and to the goals of the company generally, the all-nighters we pulled to get books to the printer, the tens of thousands of hours hunched over typewriters and computer keyboards and manuscripts, his above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty proofreading. What I’d like to do, though, is to offer a few words about something I’m uniquely qualified to talk about: the intersection between our personal and professional lives.
As a publisher of cartooning, Fantagraphics Books was an outgrowth of The Comics Journal, so a polemical chip-on-the-shoulder was built into its DNA. As recently as the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the whole notion that comics was a bona fide art form was still alien not just to the culture at large, but even to the fan sub-culture, most of which inhabited this bland, gray area between a connoisseurial love of great cartooning and the worship of pure drek (often both at the same time). The only way to break this critical complacency, I thought —and it may not have been the most effective strategy (because it was less a strategy than a compulsion)— was to confront the artistic status quo head-on with the best criticism we could muster — and Kim was right there with me in this Quixotic endeavor, as his reviews of Ronin, Detectives, Inc., The Death of Captain Marvel, and other books attest. Without this zeal, I don’t think we could’ve made a difference.
Elsewhere, lots of catching up to do:
—The long nightmare surrounding Dragon Con and Edward Kramer is apparently over. (Context here.)
—If you read the two-part Peter Bagge/Zak Sally discussion we ran a few months back, you recall how much of it had to do with the difficult economics of comics publishing today. Sally is now releasing the second volume of his Sammy the Mouse series, and talks a lot more about all of that in his announcement, in which he suggests ordering the book direct.
—As with most (all?) art forms, the history of comics is perhaps most efficiently grasped as the history of the technologies involved with its production. Pioneering underground artist Justin Green is figuring out how the current technological changes affect his work in a brief blog post here.
This 1988 panel about the viability of satire in editorial cartooning features Jules Feiffer, Chuck Freund, Brad Holland, David Levine, and Peter Steiner. They question what’s left to satirize in a culture that satirizes itself, and ponder if humor helps or hurts the political aims of editorial cartoonists. Continue reading →