“The comics industry needs to rectify its historical abuses as best it can, no matter if a court makes them or not. It needs to do this right now. It needs to do it publicly. It needs to do it in a way that honors the creative process… And then, when this is done, it needs to make an unrelenting, industry-wide commitment to the notion that these matters have moral force and that exploitation is intolerable no matter what a legal construction allows. Because there are just as many horrible people out there right now who want creators’ movie rights or who come to the table offering little more than a small advance in order to put their name on someone else’s work, and just as many if not more apologists for same. In a way, it’s hard to blame them. After all, for 70 years, Superman said it was okay.”
+ Flight contributor and graphic novelist Neil Babra recently completed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for the “No Fear Shakespeare” line of graphic novels published by an arm of B&N. The “No Fear” line basically “translates” Shakespearian English into more direct or contemporary English, to make the stories more approachable for young readers. I have a complex array of feelings on the idea of changing the language of Shakespeare without a full modernization, particularly because I don’t think the plot of Shakespeare is as important as the actual language… But that said, I think there’s still value to this approach, both as a study guide and additional learning tool for readers who need a way “into” the works. Luckily Neil has lots of ideas on adaptation, translation, and Shakespeare’s language as well, and he addresses them all on the just completed information page on the No Fear: Shakespeare graphic novel adaptation of Hamlet. It’s really wonderful reading.
Also, I have included a more literal adaptation of my own to My reading of the classic; Neil draws Horatio hot all the way through the book.
+ Has anyone noticed that the new colours on the remastered hardcover edition of Batman: The Killing Joke are kind of boring? Check out this side-by-side comparison of the original colours and the new edition over at PopCultureShock. I think my problem with it is that while artist Brian Boland brings a high degree of craft to the new colouring, he’s drained all of the emotion and… art… out of the work. Little touches like the cast-shadows on the cuffs of the Joker’s sleeves, for example, added more personality and depth to the art than all of the soft airbrush modelling in the world could hope to accomplish. At work my opinion is in the minority, with the majority of customers loving the hell out of the new look. Enh.
+ I’m really glad that Johanna Draper-Carlson put the leg-work in to try and peel away some of the secrecy surrounding comics’ only national holiday (or outreach event…), Free Comic Book Day. I’ve never understood the lack of transparency or accountability that surrounds this event, and I find it incredibly frustrating every single time it rolls around. This time out? The organisation mandated that all books had to be all-ages appropriate, thus reflecting a vision of the industry that doesn’t actually exist. They disallowed the participation of a publisher and then apparently lied about the reasoning (see the comments section). Getting answers is like pulling teeth. They stopped answering. And then somewhat mysteriously retailer Joe Field, the founder of FCBD (before turning it over whole-hog to Diamond), a man who has made very specific mention in the past of his arm’s-length from FCBD, ends up responding to questions that were sent to Diamond.
I’m not one to critisize without putting the work in myself; I do lots of comics outreach. But I think you can do it without the secrecy and misdirection, and a damn site better than what’s gone on. And if Mr. Field wants to ask me for suggestions that generally aren’t followed up on, again, here’s one: Name the people and organizations on the FCBD comittee. Who’s making the decisions, specifically? I’d feel better about the organization and more inclined to support it if decisions weren’t being made behind closed doors, and without any more general consultation of the direct market.
+ My friend Mr. Bryan Lee O’Malley was interviewed on NPR’s “Fair Game” last week about Scott Pilgrim. It’s a fun little interview and it’s the last segment, so fast-forward until there’s about 10 minutes left in the program.
+ The New York Times’ “Papercuts” blog offers up The 7 Deadly Sins of Book Reviewing. In keeping with the form, the 7 sins are particular words that are overused by reviewers and critics to the point of uselessness… Are the standards in comics criticism high enough that something like over-use of word “poignant” is something we have to worry about? I mean, how often are we likely to see the word “lyrical” in the latest plot-recap of last week’s Avengers? Or am I just being a bitch? Or both?
+ At Gay Pop Culture Website AfterElton.com, prominent gay comics fan/writer Lyle Masaki has been covering comics and geek culture turning on the broader gay audience to all that’s gay in comics (though mostly the superhero and Buffy set). “Six Gay Geeks Who’ve Improved Popular Culture” is a recent piece from Lyle that tags comics mainstays like Phil Jimmenez and Andy Mangels for their comics-centric contributions to geek culture. It’s a solid read.
+ I found myself needing to write a short history of comics in North America recently, and found the website The History of Romance Comics to be a really useful compendium of knowledge on some of the most popular and bestselling comics North America has ever seen. Who knew that they also feature a great collection of romance comics reprints as well? Check out their fantastic collection of pre-code romance comics and history articles.
+ Thank you John Jakala for pointing out that Paul Levitz isn’t so hot at the math. Unfortunately, the platform for Mr. Levitz’ creative accounting is the blog & Newsarama, and the comments section there is such a fucking pit that any legitimate criticism of the facts presented in the column is likely to get drowned out by mouth-breathers still angry that every DC comic doesn’t come with bound-in $50 bills. Le Sigh.
+ Finally, though it isn’t specifically about comics I wanted to talk a little bit about bookstore culture… Here in Toronto the bookstore landscape is a-changing. Our neighbors at Ballenford Books on Architecture will be closing their doors in the next few months. They’re currently working to liquidate inventory which means some nice sales on some beautiful books… I really like this store and bookstores in general. It’s always sad when one decides to close their doors.
Meanwhile, one of my favourite indy bookshops is closing as well, but with a happier ending. “This Ain’t The Rosedale Library” will be closing their 22 year old spot in Toronto’s Gay Village, and moving to a smaller (and likely much cheaper) space in Kensington Market. They’re also having a pretty amazing sale right now, with 50% off of the already low prices on remaindered books. I’m going to try to get over there first thing tomorrow…
And that’s it for this post. Thanks for reading!
Did you read that headline?
“A federal judge here on Wednesday ruled that the heirs of Jerome Siegel â€” who 70 years ago sold the rights to the action hero he created with Joseph Shuster to Detective Comics for $130 â€” were entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to the character. The ruling left intact Time Warnerâ€™s international rights to the character, which it has long owned through its DC Comics unit.” – New York Times
Basically, they sold the copyright for Superman and all derivative creations in 1938 for Action Comics #1, and at that time, selling copyright was a limited-duration sort deal, so far as I can tell. Then in 1976, a copyright extension act enabled the creators to terminate copyright agreements under certain circumstances. In 1999 the family of Jerry Siegel filed for a termination of copyright, DC fought it in court, and on Wednesday morning they lost.
It’s worth noting that DC lost a similar court battle to the Siegel and Shuster estates last year, I believe, over the character of Superboy. They appealed of course, and that case is ongoing. It’s almost guaranteed that DC will appeal this ruling as well, but… yeah. This is a pretty big deal, and a truly surprising result as far as I can tell.
I think… I think this is amazing. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on creator ownership, on claims by estates and heirs, all that sort of stuff. I’m trying not to say anything contradictory (or flat out wrong), but I’m just surprisingly happy about this. I think it’s difficult to know anything about the treatment of Siegel and Shuster since the creation of Action Comics #1 to present day by DC and think this is anything but just, but… Yeah, even if they’d made $100,000 a year since 1938 (and they really, really didn’t) I still think there’s a moral imperative for creators to be able to control what they create, and for contracts, all contracts, to have limits.
Mostly I hope that this acts as a warning to talented young creators eager to sign away their rights just to get published… Two 17 year old kids signed away Superman and lived in poverty for much of their lives because of it. It took their heirs seventy years to rectify the situation.
I hope some of that sinks in. I hope that creative people realize and value their worth. And congratulations to the Siegels.
Photo of Jerry Siegel and Bob Clampett at the 1976 San Diego Comic Book Convention. Photo by Alan Light.
Jeff Trexler’s Excellent Examination
William Patry’s Legal Analysis of the ruling
Alan Light’s Photos of Jerry Siegel, including two letters from Siegel on the 1970s movement to gain recognition for he and Joe Schuster.
I just wanted to briefly mention that I was in the newspaper a couple of times in the past few weeks, which is kind of thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
Comic Book Hero
“Chris Butcher takes a break from rescuing literacy and gives Zenya Sirant the 411 on the superpowers of the graphic novel from his HQ at indie institution The Beguiling.”
“We don’t let people leave the store without buying [Scott Pilgrim],” says Chris Butcher, manager at The Beguiling comic book store in the Annex. “Yeah, we’re totally excited about the movie news. You know, it’s still our best-selling graphic novel every week … People are always discovering it.”
My Night As A Lady: Steve Murray Goes Undercover
It was a pretty fun evening.
Also: Funny story. I actually quit an interview two questions in, yesterday. A journalism student for an accredited university had called looking to do an interview for class on graphic novels, and somehow heard I was the guy to go to. Fair enough, I like to be helpful. The first question was “What’s a graphic novel?” and I was like “Seriously?” The second question was “Are they all superheroes?” and… I just balked. Like, maybe they didn’t know what they were doing, maybe they just thought that they needed me to reiterate all of their background information in my own voice for some reason, but I just was totally put off by the style and tone of the questions and balked. I just couldn’t do the interview anymore… I feel like a bit of a jerk too because I’m sure that now this person needs to find someone else for their project or whatever, but I realised that getting angrier and angrier at the questions and even answering these sorts of questions wasn’t going to do anyone any favours… Ah well.
Also Again: I feel like I’m getting back into the groove of blogging after a bumpy few winter months. Thanks to everyone for the comments and links on my last few weeks of articles. I’ve been trying a lot harder and I think it shows.
We’ve installed 2 more bookcases of manga at The Beguiling in the past week or two, bumping our total to 14 (and 6 spinner racks). Last time my fellow employee Parrish checked our instock list, there were more than 5000 line items on it, and that’s not including stuff that we don’t have codes for and have to order “manually” (adult titles and yaoi, international manga, etc.). After finishing the monumental task of re-stocking and re-organising these shelves, he said “I want a picture of this with the caption ‘this is what 5000 manga looks like’.”
Parrish, your wish is my command. Check the (craptacular) panoramic below.
…and if you’re just dropping in from BoingBoing, hello! Check out my Japan photos, they’re pretty great.
Toronto’s R.G. Taylor has a new graphic novel dropping in a few months called “Growing Up With Comics” from Desperado. It’s a collection of various comics luminaries talking about their defining comics moments, and it collects strips that ran in Negative Burn magazine. I came in and lettered what I think is the last story in the series, my boss Peter Birkemoe talking about old E.C. Comics. They’ve got a nice preview up online at http://www.desperadopublishing.com/TITLES/GrowComics.htm.
Was working through my computer today and tripped over this… An awesome illustration by Jim Mahfood to promote the 2005 TCAF kick-off event featuring musician/turntablist/graphic novelist Kid Koala and featuring live art by Mr. Mahfood. Unfortunately due to the tight deadlines we were under (and the extreme stress I was under…) this postcard never got printed up, which is a real shame as it’s pretty kick-ass. The least I can do is share it with all of you wonderful people.
Visit Jim Mahfood’s site at http://www.40ozcomics.com/.
Visit the gateway to Kid Koala’s two sites at http://www.kidkoala.com/.
Primarily because sometimes the spam filter breaks down and I had to delete 50 pieces of Spam from the moderation queue on Friday. Partly because I don’t really value everyone’s opinions equally. Seriously. It’s nice to pay lip service to the idea that everyone’s dissenting opinions are valid and… whatever, but they aren’t. Why am I spending my time and bandwidth giving people I literally think _nothing of_ a platform for their rantings? Why should I expect that I can go to someone else’s blog and say _literally anything_ and deserve to be heard? More importantly, why does anyone want to be a part of a forum where their opinions are given equal weight and access to those of racists, misogynists, misandrists, homophobes, or just the chronically, painfully stupid? Is it masochism?
My blog is not “The Government,” neither is anyone else’s (to my knowledge), no one is censoring you. Start a blog with your ridiculous dissenting opinions. They’re free, and you can spout off all of the hateful stupid bullshit you want. America!
A public service announcement, for those that they now need to unsubscribe or otherwise stop reading because my politics disagree with theirs.