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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.”

SPREAD THE WORD. SPREAD THIS LINK.

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.

 

Two Fridays

Today on the site: Eddie Campbell reviews Young Romance: The Best of Simon and Kirby’s Romance Comics and highlights the themes and art styles embedded in these oft-overlooked comics.

And elsewhere, yesterday’s interview subject, Matthew Thurber, turned in a culture diary for The Paris Review. And of interest to comics readers, HiLobrow has opened a publishing imprint specializing in “Radium Age” science fiction. It looks good. Details here. In other publishing news comes the announcement that Seth will be illustrating Lemony Snicket’s upcoming series of autobiographical novels.

And finaly, the deluge of sad news for comic book creator ownership continues. CBR has the story, sourced from Daniel Best, of Gary Friedrich’s shameful treatment by Marvel in regards to his creation of the contemporary Ghost Rider character. And via Tom Spurgeon there’s news of a lawsuit involving payment for the original artist of the hugely successful Walking Dead comic book and TV series.

 

The Arcana of It All

Today, we are proud to present Rob Clough’s exhaustive interview with Matthew Thurber, the artist behind 1-800-MICE, What Kind of Magic Spell to Use?, and Ambergris. Here’s an excerpt from when Rob asked him about his recent collaboration with Benjamin Marra for the Smoke Signal anthology:

That pairing was actually Gabe Fowler’s idea. He matched us up together [and] he proposed the idea and he proposed the movie. I was like, “Oh no, I can’t–I’m gonna hate Transformers. Maybe I can do it on something else.” So I went and saw Super 8 and I was like, “Oh that was pretty good, but it wasn’t so stupid that you could really satirize it.” Then I finally saw Transformers, and I was like, “Holy shit!”

And later, discussing the themes behind 1-800-MICE:

We’re all part of the ecosystem with all the animals and plants and all the man-made stuff. If you try to think of the big picture, it’s overwhelming and scary. I guess that’s why my book is ultimately—underneath all the funny stuff— about being non-didactic, that we’re all part of the ecosystems. Different characters in the book are aware of different aspects of it. Even the people who are trying to control it think they’re doing the right thing. Aunty Lakeford really believes that if she proves that the banjo’s origins are in Africa, then that will help, that’s gonna help.

And elsewhere on the great internet:

Edward Sorel is profiled by local news channel NY1. Sorel: “They wanted me to do a cover about how the press was treating Nixon unfairly. I said that’s too much. I’ll sell out, but there are limits.” (via)

Our columnist Jared Gardner has a new book just out called Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First Century Storytelling. Henry Jenkins has just posted the first installment of a multi-part interview with Gardner here. Another excerpt:

I don’t think this book would have made any sense to write had it not been for what we affectionately call the golden age of comics reprints, a period of publishing that has seen long-lost newspaper comics and comic books returned to print. I am fortunate to have daily access to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum here at Ohio State, but until recently without such privileged access extensive reading in historical comics was virtually impossible. Of the comics I focus on extensively in the early chapters in the book–Happy Hooligan, Mutt & Jeff, Krazy Kat, Superman, Spider-Man, R. Crumb’s underground comix, etc.–almost all are now available in accessible reprint editions. The big exceptions here were Sidney Smith’s The Gumps and Ed Wheelan’s Minute Movies, pioneering serial strips from the 1920s, but I am now working with the Library of American Comics to get one and possibly both into an affordable reprint edition in the near future.

Art Spiegelman appeared on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week.

Someone calling himself Mr. Media has interviewed Bill Griffith. (I know I’ve mentioned Lost & Found several times here already, but it’s good–you should read it!)

And apparently, like so many other literary luminaries, Douglas Adams first saw his words in print after writing a letter to the editor about comics.

 

Smart Warming

Today: Bob Levin returns to us with a piece on Yiddishkeit the book and the culture. As usual, you get more than you think and learn more than you know.

And elsewhere, good people:

Pal and Professor at Washington University Douglas Dowd has begun a new publication called Spartan Holiday, which I enjoyed very much. It’s a picture story travelogue, elegantly blending drawing, type and image in the finest Pushpin Graphic tradition. This issues finds Doug in China, drawing as he goes. Good stuff and great to see this tradition being revived as a regular thing. Speaking of St. Louis, there’s a whole lotta Zettwoch in this photo preview of Dan’s upcoming book Birdseye Bristoe. I bet Dan, being a fellow Dan, likes these Gene Ahern comics, too. Nice to see Paul Tumey inaugurate a new blog.

Oh my goodness, there are no women in this comic book store reality show! Can you believe it? I mean, Kevin Smith’s movies are so much about understanding between genders! I am shocked! And in more heartwarming news, Alan Moore did what sounds like a cool video chat in support of Harvey Pekar.

 

Odds & Ends

I kind of feel like after Craig Fischer’s column on horror comics from yesterday, we don’t need to publish anything else this week. At the very least, I don’t want it to fall through the cracks, so give it a read soon if you haven’t done so already.

New today, we have the usual Joe McCulloch Tuesday feature: This Week in Comics!, this time featuring a bit on the top about ’00s Joe Kubert. Joe also made a guest appearance this week over at Douglas Wolk’s Judge Dredd site, in which the two discuss everything from Garth Ennis to comic-book ethics to Before Watchmen. (There’s some overlap.)

We also have Rob Clough’s review of Sharon Lintz’s Pornhounds 2.

Elsewhere, Michael Chabon is mining comic-book history in his fiction again, and has a story in this week’s New Yorker that is partly based on the relationship between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

At the Brooklyn Rail, Bill Kartalopoulos has a typically well-informed and informative review of the new Joost Swarte collection.

And the mysterious Illogical Volume of the Mindless Ones has a complicated response to Grant Morrison’s Batman comics (and his recent dubious statements about Siegel & Shuster). Of course, it’s unclear if complicated responses are what Morrison deserves—though as Joe M. pointed out over at Wolk’s place, Morrison is the only DC creator we know of (besides Kevin Smith, ha ha) to have publicly turned down working on Before Watchmen. So at least there’s that.

 

Yo Yo Yo Yo

Happy Monday. We’re please to announce that we’ve begun a little partnership with The Rumpus. Thanks to Paul Madonna, The Rumpus will feature a couple of TCJ pieces every month. This doesn’t really affect you if you’re already reading this, but we’re pleased and excited.

On this very site Craig Fischer brings you a beast of a post that takes a Skywald horror comic as its base and expands from there. Love it.

And in more internal news, Fantagraphics OGs Preston White and Mike Catron have returned to the fold. Tom Spurgeon has the lowdown and an interview with Mike. Welcome back, guys!

Ok, now we’ll leave our own orbit and go… elsewhere:

Some “living my life” posts to link to here… Paul Karasik doing it up in AngoulemeJessica Abel on moving to France and making career choices, Lynda Barry on what we remember, and Kyle Baker on the creative life.

Rub the Blood editors Ian Harker and Pat Aulisio got the Inkstuds treatment. I confess that I don’t really understand the Rob Liefeld nostalgia thing, but one man’s Paul Gulacy is another man’s Rob Liefeld (and yes, it’s only men), so, y’know, I get it in the abstract. Man.

And the pages from Rokuro Taniuchi’s 1948 children’s comic The Magic Underground Castle at 50 Watts is pure joy.