In our top story, Ghost Rider creator or co-creator and original writer Gary Friedrich became the face of creators’ rights this week. Having already lost a courtroom battle for any rights to Ghost Rider, he was successfully countersued for $17,000 he doesn’t have, for the infractions of selling Ghost Rider prints and… this is the good part… describing himself as the creator of Ghost Rider. In a bit of poetic timing, the ruling came just as a clip of Ghost Rider 2 surfaced online.
To be clear, I never thought Friedrich’s original suit had a snowball’s chance in courtroom Hell. The only surprising thing about it for me was that the judge cited 1978 documents where Friedrich signed away the character, rather than a straight-up work-for-hire contract when Friedrich first worked on him in 1973. Those would have been signed during the darkest period in Friedrich’s life, when alcoholism was threatening to consume him completely. (He’s been sober since 1980.) Other creator accounts differ from Friedrich’s as to who created just what, and when, though it is clear his scripts at least shaped the character.
Nevertheless, Marvel’s countersuit is a drastic misstep for the publisher, calling attention to its worst side, even as a small, but well-represented, protest movement grows up around the Avengers film and the issue of credit and royalties for the Kirby estate. Marvel could make the case that the Kirby heirs didn’t earn a royalty check themselves, but no such argument can be made against Friedrich, who clearly gave the best of himself to Marvel. Some are petitioning Nicolas Cage to donate to the man who inspired one of his favorite roles, but you can make your own donation to Friedrich now.
The Walking Dead
As the new season premiere of basic cable’s top-rated program approached, Robert Kirkman, creator of both the TV show and the original comic book, began the week with a mellow, soon-to-be-ironic speech about the importance of losing fights with creative partners. Childhood friend and longtime collaborator Tony Moore, who drew the first six issues of The Walking Dead, then sued him over a contract the two signed in 2005, giving him cause to regret an offhand joke about using “trickery and deceit” on artists. Kirkman fired back quickly, characterizing Moore’s allegations as “ridiculous. We each had representation seven years ago, and now he is violating the same contract he initiated and approved.”
Other Image Artists
Stan Lee and Alan Moore
Two of the most, if not the most, widely well-regarded comics scriptwriters took to Ustream, with mixed results due to technical difficulties. Lee was promoting the release of his new website, timed to coincide with his lifetime achievement award from the Visual Effects Society. At the ceremony, Lee remarked, “my cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man is going to bring in the audience.” Everyone assumed this was a joke. And yet, in Britain, that same week, sci-fi institution SFX magazine voted Lee’s absence in X-Men First Class as “the most disappointing thing about 2011.” (I would have gone with “the global economy.”) SFX also voted The Walking Dead as “Best TV series.”
Though Moore’s rare public appearance was a long-awaited reward for those who had funded a public Harvey Pekar statue, it was an opportune time for Moore to speak, as the Before Watchmen project had already focused attention on him. He offered a long-awaited clarification of his views on the use of others’ intellectual property, distinguishing between such “literary mashups” as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls, and “adapting” the works of “cheated old men,” as in post-Siegel Superman and post-Moore Watchmen, which he considers “evil.” One might challenge this belief, but it is at least a consistent world-view, presented with charming modesty (“This might be splitting hairs…”).
Moore also announced two upcoming League projects, discussed his interest in digital comics and professional wrestling, largely dismissed Grant Morrison and roundly praised Pekar. As if that weren’t enough, he submitted a lengthy essay to the BBC on Anonymous and the legacy of V For Vendetta, proving there are some appropriations of his ideas that get his wholehearted approval.
Elsewhere, in a bit of ironic juxtaposition reminiscent of Moore’s own early work, DC released the first– and not the last– Veidt Industries-style “Watchmen” collectibles.
In other legal matters, DC continues to struggle with the Siegel and Shuster heirs in a tangle of suits, countersuits and accusations of document theft.
Smallville Season 11 is an upcoming “digital-first” comic book series for those who just couldn’t get enough of Chloe Sullivan-Queen and those dreamy Tom Welling eyes, or at least reasonably drawn facsimiles of same.
This account of Superman’s radio-broadcast fight with the KKK clears up the myths, while celebrating a rare instance where the character risked alienating some listeners because it was the right thing to do.
This casting call for a Superboy movie is not a porn film. No, it’s totally not a porn film. How could you even think it was a porn film? DC Entertainment just has a lot of trouble finding good actors, so it has to use Craigslist! (Spoiler: this is probably for a porn film.)
World’s Finest is relaunching with Power Girl and the Huntress in place of their male counterparts. They also sport new costumes, by far the most practical-looking outfits they’ve ever worn.
Best headline of the week: Catwoman Pepper Sprays Ozzy Impersonator. Witnesses agree that “Ozzy” provoked the incident, which took place among the costumed community on Hollywood Boulevard.
Joss Whedon has built a reputation in part on the sensitive handling of women’s issues, and Buffy Summers’ difficult decision to have an abortion is handled with grace and sensitivity. The same cannot be said of the worst headline of the week: “Buffy to slay unwanted pregnancy.” (…WOW.)
Comic Book Men
One place you won’t be seeing “heroines” of any kind is Kevin Smith’s upcoming series, Comic Book Men, premiering this Sunday directly following the Walking Dead season opener. Smith’s comments on that particular issue will not please everyone. Still, Smith has come a long way from his self-described career low in 2010, and his isn’t the only high-profile TV series with “Men” in the title.
Frank Miller put two Dark Knight pieces up for auction. Each is valued at over $50,000.
The Avengers released not one, but three separate versions of its ad during the Super Bowl. in addition to the two-minute trailer already available. Also released: Fury’s Big Week #1, a digital-only promotional comic.
A board game based on the film gives new weight to certain Skrull-ious rumors about who, besides Loki, will be the film’s antagonists.
Marvel is also developing a line of official Avengers colognes and perfumes, for anyone who wants to liven up their dating life by smelling like the Black Widow, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Nick Fury… or, uh, Loki or the Hulk. (“He exudes a certain radioactive masculinity?”)
Other Marvel Movies
Retailer summit ComicsPRO was last weekend, and the overall mood was optimistic, in part due to increased year-over-year sales, in part due to Before Watchmen anticipation, and in part due to an apparent “Walking Dead spillover effect” that’s helping Image sales. Dark Horse president and publisher Mike Richardson gave an inspiring speech. Elsewhere, DC published survey results suggesting that it had done well lately with its traditional demographic– 18-34-year-old males– who weren’t close to giving up on print, even if they already used digital.
Underscoring Richardson’s emphasis on making stores into communal experiences, some are turning the Avengers vs. X-Men concept into a more interactive experience for their consumers. And this year’s Comic-Con has declared it will open with a 136-mile Olympics-style lightsaber relay.
Nevertheless, digital comics are where the real growth is. ICv2 published data that saw digital comics sales triple in 2011, becoming a $25 million-dollar business. Diamond Comics Distributors introduced its own e-reader app in partnership with iVerse, which is closing down its own store in response. That move might represent a challenge to Comixology, whose dominance over certain aspects of the digital market already has observers worried. (If Diamond ends up being an anti-monopolistic force by 2016, well, don’t say we didn’t tell you so.) Even so, individual artists are still finding modest success with digital releases.
Not all digital platforms are doing as well. While the iPad will soon see a special Spider-Man tale with experimental use of digital media, the Nook was criticized for offering a poor manga-reading experience and, even more problematically, choking its comics store with porn– and not even comics porn, at that. The Kindle has a similar, though less severe, porn problem.
Classic webcomic adventure The Makeshift Miracle announced a book collection.
Korean artist Kang Do-Young, AKA Kang Full or Kang Pool, has already brought six of his webcomics to the silver screen, but his most personal and politically active work, 26 Years, hasn’t made the jump yet. It’s been in delay so long that the movie was retitled 29 Years. But it’s moving forward more quickly now.
Adam WarRock’s ‘616’: probably one of the ten comic-nerdiest songs of all time, from his upcoming album You Dare Call That Thing Human?!?
A gay teen not in a superhero costume has his own regularly-published comic-book series from a major publisher, which has never happened before in comics history. Previews for Kevin Keller #1 can be found here.
Known for gut-wrenchingly “adult” stories, ideas, and themes, Mark Millar announced Kindergarten Heroes, his new children’s book project.
Known for gut-wrenchingly “adult” stories, ideas, and themes, Garth Ennis announced ERF, his new children’s book project.
Known primarily for Adventure Time (which has just debuted in comics form with scripts by Dinosaur Comics’ Ryan North), Pendleton Ward is using comics, quick sketches and other media to flesh out his new project, Bravest Warriors.