Thursday 27th November 2014,
Comic Booked

The Week in Comics: Ghost Writer

T Campbell 02/12/2012 Reviews

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.

Ghost Rider chokes Gary Friedrich

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.”

Meanwhile, Kirkman’s new project Thief  of Thieves hit stores, and The Walking Dead comics hit the iPad.

Walking Dead iPad screenshots

Other Image Artists

Todd McFarlane is working more on video games these days, including those he didn’t create, and Marc Silvestri’s The Darkness just released its second video game adaptation. Heyyyy…

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.

Superman

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.)

Superheroines

Wonder Women, the documentary about female heroes narrated by Ms. Female Superhero herself, is having trouble getting completed. Kickstarter donations are here.

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.

Batman

As Gotham City Impostors launches, featuring impersonator Batmans in a complex laser tag of sorts against the Jokerz, Rocksteady looks back on Arkham City, the game that killed the Joker.

Frank Miller put two Dark Knight pieces up for auction. Each is valued at over $50,000.

Avengers

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

Marc Webb discussed the new Amazing Spider-Man trailer, and Wolverine 2 announced a 2013 release date.

Comics Industry

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.

E-Comics

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.

Webcomics

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.

Miscellany

Astro Boy and Osamu Tezuka: the play.

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.

Kid Stuff

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.

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About The Author

T Campbell is a prolific writer, co-scriptwriter of Guilded Age, and writer of QUILTBAG, Fans, Penny and Aggie, Rip and Teri, and more. He's also the creator of the world's largest New York Times-standard crossword puzzle.

  1. madmonq 02/12/2012 at 5:39 am

    Please. I advocate for a boycott of all Marvel products, except for the Avengers film. By default I am boycotting Marvel comics because I am sick of characters serving almost exclusively as a medium for the crossover event book big money grab. The books are largely terrible, IMO. Also: I am an cranky old dude.

    The Avengers film is being helmed by Joss Whedon, a great creator who is no stranger to big media business versus creator woes. I would hate to see the film tank (unless it is truly bad) & he take the blame. I'd hate to see his position marginalized by a poorly timed boycott.

    I'd recommend Ghost Rider as a boycott option but I'd hate it to even remotely affect creator Gary Friedrich in the forum of popular opinion. But it seems Nicholas Cage, Marvel and/or the marketplace will inevitably do that for him.

  2. T Campbell 02/12/2012 at 6:37 am

    The boycott's not going to make the movie tank. There have been much more organized boycotts against such films as BASIC INSTINCT and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, and no boycott has ever been responsible for a film's commercial failure. This will not be the one to break that rule.

    But unlike the makers of those films, Marvel's playing a longer game: it has to sell collectible merchandise and a continuing stream of products. It has to supervise its brand, year after year.

    Still, when it comes to what you and I can do, I think that donations to Friedrich make a much more tangible difference than any protests. It's hard to get Marvel to even notice me NOT seeing a movie, you know?

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I worked hard on this, glad to see it reaching some people.

  3. madmonq 02/12/2012 at 8:08 am

    Of course. And to insult my own kind I've never known fanboys to be organized about much, except complaining. But I'd hate for the negative publicity to reach the national media and possibly affect an artist I truly like, less concerned about Marvel.

    And thanks for the digest. I am a fan of the Robb Orr & the Seth Jacobs too.

  4. Skott of Fables 02/12/2012 at 10:45 pm

    I'd rather call on Nic Cage to renounce this abomination of a movie and pull it from the release schedule. I'd be alright for it being released on BETA MAX, but that's about it.

    I'm curious as to how much this counter suit was Marvel proper or lawyers. Remember, Marvel isn't a privately owned company anymore. Publicly traded with a board of directors and everything. Much of this legal stuff it out of the hands of the publisher.

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