Angoulême fest announces line-up of exhibits and spotlights: Watterson, Kirby, Moomins, Taniguchi

The Angoulême Festival International de la Bande Dessineé for 2015 has released the schedule of art exhibits, spotlights and other goodies. They attached this as an English-language pdf which I’ve inserted below.

There are several amusing typos on the list, see if you can spot them. All that aside, this is a pretty stunning—and cosmopolitan—line-up, with comics from around the world including the Finnish Moomin saga, the Americans Jack Kirby and Bill Watterson, manga giant Jiro Taniguchi and so on. When they say exhibits, these are museum-quality shows that enhance your experience of even familiar projects. Truly Angouleme is the temple of comics. I think extending its esthetic to more comics is a great development.

There are obviously a lot of changes coming to this most Franco-Belgian of all comics events, and a lot of behinds the scenes turmoil which I’ll be reporting on in a separate post.

The New Yorker’s Cartoons of the Year is out, with Wheeler and Karasik

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Although The Beat is a loyal New Yorker subscriber (it’s the only thing that holds our attention whilst on the elliptical) just beause you’re a subscriber does’t mean you get the Cartoons of the Year special edition. However if our email is to be believed, this issue includes several new pieces that may necessitate a trip to the newsstand.

Michael Maslin has an index of the cartoons reprinted within—among them Emily Flake, Shannon Wheeler and Liana Finck. HE also made a screenshot of the cover, so we can find it on the newsstand.

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Shannon Wheeler has also drawn a 3-page comic strip about Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (no relation) the “father of the comic book.” His granddaughter Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (an occasional Beat contributor) sent out a teeny preview to whet our appetites.
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Paul Karasik has also written a two page article dissecting a Charles Addams cartoon. He also sent along a preview!

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This week’s regular issue has a cover by Richard McGuire referencing HERE, which comes out any day now. There’s the usual cover feature explaining it:

“As I walk around the city, I’m time-travelling, flashing forward, planning what it is I have to do,” Richard McGuire says about this week’s cover. “Then I have a sudden flashback to a remembered conversation, but I notice a plaque on a building commemorating a famous person who once lived there, and for a second I’m imagining them opening the door. This is the territory of my new book, ‘Here,’ playing with time in both a historic and personal way.”

 

Marvel.com salutes Jack Kirby on Veterans Day

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This photo was posted on Marvel.com in a piece commemorating Veteran’s Day.

Obviously there is no one in comics more suitable for this kind of salute than Kirby who would tell his war stories to all.

And

JACK KIRBY ON MARVEL.COM

OH YEAH.

The piece includes family photos and remembrances from Kirby’s son Neal of his dad’s wartime exploits:

Kirby took part in the crossing of the Moselle River at Dornot on September 8, 1944. Paddling themselves across the river in tiny assault boats while under fire from German troops on the other side, the battalion established a small beachhead where they were met by the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Holding a thin line in the woods, the men of the 2nd Battalion held for days. Neal Kirby remembers one harrowing story, when a tank was charging down on his father’s foxhole. Sure to be run over by the massive tank, “the guy next to him stood up and just fired a round right through the drivers slit and the tank stops dead. It’s one of those one in a billion shots,” that saved Jack Kirby and others.

You may recall that Marvel and Kirby’s heirs recently reached a settlement over the matter of Kirby’s massive input in creating the Marvel Universe that is currently worth billions and billions of dollars. I suspected that we would see a suddens surge in crediting Kirby and not only do comics now have his name as co-creator, he has a credit on Agents of SHIELD, and now a salute on Marvel.com. You can’t get too much Jack Kirby and I hope this is just the beginning.

And here’s to you Jack and every one of the men and women who have served our nation.

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DesignerCon Tells a Toy Story All Its Own

By David Nieves

Even though Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, ten years ago, you’d be remiss to find comic conventions, toy shows, or most other forms of pop culture gatherings. The monthly mini show at the Shrine Expo was at times more a flea market than a convention and Frank and Son’s collectibles is always basically a swap meet. Today, there’s an overabundance of conventions and expos in L.A. for every facet of fandom. Seems like very weekend, fans of the popular arts have a place to gather somewhere in Southern California and that’s far from a bad thing.

This weekend in Pasadena CA; artists, toy makers, and vinyl sculptors of all kinds gathered at the convention center for DesignerCon or Dcon as it’s commonly known. If you’re an art connoisseur or a collector of unique toys this show is for you. Dcon smashes together collectible toys and designer goods with urban, underground and pop art. The show is over 70,000 square feet and features over 300 vendors, art & custom live demonstrations, and much more. Attendees can get prints by quirky artist Michelliezoid, the barbwire covered bat from Skybound Ent, or something from Prints On Wood by Tara McPherson and Greg “Craola” Simkins.

Dcon also host a limited number of informative and fan panels covering topics such as crowdfunding, character design, and building a style all your own.

However the real star of the show is the floor. Traversing the straightforward rows of aisles is simplicity. A person could walk the entire floor to get the lay of the land and easily find the booths they want to get back to. One of the most interesting parts of Dcon is that no two booths are even remotely alike. First you see the adorable art of Unicorn Crafts and then turn around to look at the zealously detailed horror dioramas of Jackorama. One of our favorite exhibits was the Lego recreations of some iconic comic book covers by ComicBricks. The Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle cover was exquisite right down to its tiny bottle of hooch.

The show has a very niche appeal. If you’re looking for comics, or figures from Mattel you won’t find them here. But if you enjoy innovatively designed toys like Giant Robot or gallery quality art by masters like Jeff Soto then this show is well worth the low low price of $7 for entrance.

Dcon continues Sunday from 10am-5pm at the Pasadena Convention Center. Find out more info at DesignerCon.com. Check out a few pics from the show below.

James Sturm hits a nerve among cartoonists with ‘The Sponsor’

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On Monday, James Sturm, cartoonist and director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, posted a cartoon at The Nib called “The Sponsor”. I’m sure if you are a cartoonist you’ve already read it, since it was the talk of the town for a few days. Basically it concerns cartoonists, jealousy, the low bar for success, anxiety over one’s abilities, tumblr hits, Kickstarter and more. All in 24 panels. I’d call that a good job.

The basic conceit is that as in various 12-step programs, (the subtitle is “The first step is admitting you have a problem”) cartoonists have sponsors they can call in moments of stress. A young cartoonist named Casey calls his sponsor, Alan, in the middle of the night to fret about another cartoonist named Tessa who has a six figure Kickstarter, a line out the door at a Rocketship signing,  and a book deal with D&Q. Tessa’s success sends Casey into such a tizzy that he has to work things out and consider grad school, despite Alan’s insistence that Crumb never thought about hits. And despite his “stay strong” rhetoric to Casey, Alan soon picks up the phone to call his OWN sponsor.

Of course we all know that judging your own success by someone else’s is a short cut to despair. By the same token, we’ve all done what Casey does, looked at other people’s book deals, Facebook likes, retweets or dinner companions and found ourselves feeling shitty about someone else’e\s perceived success. It’s human nature. You do it, I do it, we all do it. And then, if we want to actually be a success in some measure, we move on.

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I know this cartoon ignited much talk in cartooning circles, but the one I caught spun out of this one by Colleen Frakes:

In this link, you can see the responses from MK Reed, Johanna Draper Carlson, Mike Dawson, Alison Wilgus and more. To be honest, the gender question here is, for once, a red herring. I think Sturm’s satire—and it is a satire, not an autobiographical comic—was based on the image of two white guys fretting over the success of a younger female cartoonist. That was kinda the POINT. This cartoon was about the toxic effects of jealousy not about gender relations—that the more successful, nimble cartoonist is a woman backs up setting as the twilight of the “pap pap era” that is implied by the reference to Crumb.

Another subtext of “The Sponsor” is that Alan and Casey are only reacting to the external aspects of Tessa’s career, and eschewing an examination of the artistic merits of her work that might lead to inspiration as opposed to mere envy. We get better at what we do by studying better things, and applying what makes them better to our own work, in a sensible way. Easier said than done, I know.

BTW, for those who think this is a lonely cry for acceptance by a put upon white male cartoonist, more of those thoughts are publicly expressed in this Metafilter thread, including guesses as to the real Tessa and so on. Come on people…IT’S A SATIRICAL STORY. I am well aware that all art is filtered through the social status of the creator, but but interpreting all storytelling as confirmation bias is the ultimate no-win situation. Can you imagine if Dan Clowes’ “Dan Pussey” came out today?

No, “The Sponsor” is about insecurity and the trivial uncontrollable fretting that destroys your own creativity. A few years ago I linked to this piece by Rob Liefeld called “How to Beat The Haters”, and you know, if Rob Liefeld can do it any one can—although external criticism is far from the corrosive internal struggle discussed in “The Sponsor.” But some of the same rules apply. You can only control one person’s work—your own. And yes, I am aware of the irony of quoting a cartoonist whose entire career seems oblivious to the painful self-examination Casey and Alan are dealing with.  The way forward lies somewhere in the middle.

Kind of tangential to this, but I’ve updated the Beat’s “How to Get Into Comics and Survive Once You’re There” page with a few links. It’s still only an outline. Share more resources or self-help or ideas for what Casey and Alan should do in the comments.

And a final PS: Man, the Nib is awesome. That is all.

Buy a copy of The Walking Dead Vol. 1 with an original oil painting by Ben Templesmith for an absurdly low price

Well, $412 seems absurdly low to us, anyway. 

Renowned horror/fantasy artist Templesmith has been experimenting with hand-painted covers for several books, and this is an original one of a kind oil painting done on a copy of The Walking Dead Volume 1. The painting was varnished, and I don’t know if you can read the book inside, but it seems to me that this is a pretty darned sweet collectible…especially for Halloween.

Also…Christmas is coming.

More Templesmith stuff at the 78Squid retail website.

Dave Gibbons named the first Comics Laureate in the UK

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Hm let’s see, we need an ambassador of comics who can work with schools, educators and more to show how comics can contribute to literacy and learning. We need someone who is smart, distinguished and universally loved…

I know! Let’s get Dave Gibbons!

And so it has been announced at this year’s Lake Festival which is being held this weekend.

Bestselling graphic novelist Dave Gibbons is to become the first Comics Laureate. The announcement was made by internationally acclaimed comics authority and graphic novelist Scott McCloud at the launch of new charity Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on 17th October.

The role of Comics Laureate is to be appointed biennially to a distinguished comics writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the field. Their role is to champion children’s literacy through school visits, training events for school staff and education conferences. Dave Gibbons has won universal praise for his comics and graphic novel work for Marvel and DC Comics including the ground-breaking Watchmen (with Alan Moore), as well as the UK’s own 2000AD and Doctor Who. “It’s a great honour for me to be nominated as the first Comics Laureate,” he says. “I intend to do all that I can to promote the acceptance of comics in schools. It’s vitally important not only for the pupils but for the industry too.” Dave Gibbons takes up his two-year position from February 2015.

Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) is a new UK charity formed by a group of passionate, highly experienced professionals from the fields of education and comics. Its primary aim is to improve the literacy levels of children and to promote the variety and quality of comics and graphic novels today, particularly in the education sector.

The Board of CLAw’s trustees includes renowned graphic novelist Bryan Talbot, winner of the 2012 Costa Award for Best Biography for Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes (a collaboration with his wife Mary Talbot). He says, “In many other countries, comics and graphic novels have been used extensively in literacy drives. The sheer accessibility of the medium, the way in which complex information can be easily absorbed through its combination of words and pictures, actively encourages reading in those intimidated by endless blocks of cold print.”

The other trustees are Julie Tait, Director of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival; Ian Churchill, comic book artist for DC and Marvel, and writer/artist on his Image Comics title Marineman; Emma Hayley, Managing Director and Publisher of UK’s independent graphic novel company, SelfMadeHero; Paul Register, school librarian and founder of the Stan Lee Excelsior Award; and Dr. Mel Gibson, comics scholar and senior lecturer at Northumbria University.

Alongside the Comics Laureateship, CLAw will work closely with schools on a number of initiatives, including staff training events and classroom visits by comics professionals. They will liaise with museums and galleries on a variety of comics-related projects, and provide reading lists and general guidance to school staff and parents unfamiliar with the comics medium, demonstrating the wider educational benefits it can offer.

NYCC ’14: Marvel finally confirms their Fantastic Four Cancellation: WWBGD?

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What would Ben Grimm do?

After a few months of truly bizarre speculation across the internet, and denial from the publisher, Marvel confirmed this morning at their Axel-In-Charge panel at New York Comic-Con that they are indeed canceling their main Fantastic Four title. The publisher seems like they are planning something new for their roster of Fantastic Four characters, but this is mere speculation at this point. The comic is ending in 2015. CBR ran a quote from the panel that featured current author of the title James Robinson speaking on the surprise cancellation of the comic.

“That’s the thing — everyone’s upset now because the book is going away,” Robinson said. “Are they buying the book? I don’t know if they are. A lot of it is just people like to get online and moan and complain. I guarantee you if you kill of any character, the most obscure character, you’ll get one angry person that claims it was their favorite character. Jack Frost, golden age character, they’ve done something to him. Where’s the razor blades, I’m slashing my wrists. People do that on the internet, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.”

The author deserves some massive props for talking about his run on the title so honestly. Hopefully this coming change for the Fantastic Four will be what is necessary to get the book boosted into the top 50 of the Diamond Sales charts. Marvel’s first family deserves it after all.

 

Jen Wang Aims To Give Gaming A Real World Context For ‘In Real Life’

Jen.WangBy Kyle Pinion

IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel collaboration between journalist/author Cory Doctorow and comics creator Jen Wang, centers on a young gamer named Anda who becomes enraptured by an massively multiplayer online game (MMO) called “Coarsegold Online”. While logged-in, she makes new friends, including a gregarious fellow gamer named “Sarge” and a “gold-farmer” from China named Raymond. It’s the latter whose activities, which center on illegally collecting valuable objects in the game and selling them to other players from developed countries, begin to open up Anda’s perspectives on the concepts of right and wrong, and the power of action towards civil rights.

The book was a true eye-opener for me, as I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination beyond the occasional dalliance on my console system at home. I was delighted when I received an opportunity to chat with Jen Wang about the origins of this project, its underlying themes, and how much of her own gaming experience played into the development of the narrative.

How did IN REAL LIFE (IRL) find its genesis? Did you know Cory Doctorow prior to working on this project?

Prior to IN REAL LIFE I was familiar with Cory Doctorow as a blogger and activist but I hadn’t read his fiction. ANDA’s GAME, the short story IRL is based on was actually the first piece I read. My publisher First Second sent me a link to the short and asked if I’d be interested. After reading that, it was hard to say no!

What is it about the subject matter that drew you in initially?

I like that it takes gaming, which many people see as frivolous entertainment, and gives it a real life context. The internet is inherently a social platform and it makes sense that it reflects our darker tendencies, such as exploiting people. I also like that it touches on the tension between China and the West. There’s just so much interesting material to explore and at the end of the day it’s still a simple story about two teenage gamers from different countries who become friends.

Your previous work, KOKO BE GOOD, also published through First Second, was solely written and illustrated by yourself. Do you find that there are inherent advantages in the collaborative process, and is there a method you prefer over the other? 

It’s definitely a lot easier to illustrate your own work, that’s for sure. The collaborative process is more challenging, but you also get a second point a view and a direction to work towards. Sometimes in your personal work it takes a lot of soul searching to figure out what you’re trying to say but a collaborate project allows you to bounce off other people’s ideas and that’s really refreshing.

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On the day to day work on the graphic novel, what was the working relationship between Cory and yourself? Were you in constant contact? 


During the scripting phase of the book we were sending a lot of emails. I would write a draft, send it to Cory, and he would send some notes and bounce some ideas back. We went through maybe 8 or so drafts so it took a little while to nail down the final. I was pretty much left alone at the drawing stage, however.

How much of a specific vision did Cory have in the initial “Anda’s Game” script, and how much input did you have on character design before the development of IRL? Do you feel like Anda specifically has your “stamp” on her?



I had pretty much free reign as far as design went, so that part was fairly easy. When First Second approached me to do the project they wanted me to feel comfortable writing my own take, so mostly it was me pitching ideas to Cory and him giving me notes. I do feel like I have my stamp on Anda but then again I don’t know how it wouldn’t have happened naturally. She’s a nerdy teenage shut in and having been one myself I can relate to that a lot.

The gaming details throughout are very specific, do you have a significant gaming/MMO background as a user? If not, is that an area where Cory contributed significantly?

I don’t really have a background in MMOs but I played World of Warcraft for a couple weeks prior to starting the project. That plus a combination of sandbox games I’ve played were the inspiration for Coarsegold online. I mostly tried to create a game that felt familiar and yet tailored it to things I like in games. I’m very much into customization and resource management so it was fun to add things like to the book.

How do you sense that communication has changed for Generation Y and The Millennials? Do you find that you side more with Anda or her mother in what technology brings to social interaction? 

I’m definitely on the Millennials side. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I didn’t have access to the internet as a teenager. I met so many other young artists online and they really motivated me to create and challenge myself. Without it, I would’ve had to seek these people out in college in person and I would’ve been a lot more lonely and isolated. There are risks to putting yourself online but there are risks to be alive in the real world as well.  The best you can do is exercise caution and be smart about your privacy in the same way you would anywhere.

Is there anything from your own experience pulled into Anda’s story, at least from a characterization standpoint?

 Do you see Anda as a role model? Was that the intention all along?

I was a lot like Anda in high school. I was a teenage hermit who spent a lot of time connecting to peers online within my community of choice. Like Anda, I found my identity online because I was able to meet other people like myself. I see Anda less as a traditional role model and more as someone readers could relate to. Like Anda, most young people now are discovering the world through the internet and it can be a difficult place to navigate.

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What drove the design of the world of Coarsegold? Any specific influences?

World of Warcraft is the main one, but I also looked at the Final Fantasy games, Skyrim, and more open world games like Animal Crossing, The Sims and Second Life.

What was the thought process on the color-design that differentiates Coarsegold from “the real world”?



I definitely wanted Coarsegold to be more bright and colorful by contrast as a reflection of Anda’s feelings toward both realities. I used different filters and colored textures so that real life was a little more tan and monochromatic while Coarsegold looked lively and exciting.

When Anda somewhat bridges the gap between the two by changing her hair color to match her avatar, what kind of sea-change does that indicate for her personally?

At that point in the story Anda has finally found purpose and confidence in her role as a Fahrenheit. Not only has she befriended Raymond and discovered this world of goldfarming, but she’s taken on the task of helping him. It’s a decision she’s been able to make for herself separate from what her peers have led her to believe, and changing her hair color is a symbol of this newfound confidence.

IN REAL LIFE defies expectations a bit in that it shifts a bit touching briefly on females in gaming (with the very succinct hand-raising scene in the classroom and some of the concerns of “Sarge”) and then moves into an area centering on economics and specifically civil rights. Do you sense a strong correlation between the two themes?

Oh, for sure. As in real life, the conflict within Coarsegold comes from who is considered an “other.” As a young girl in gaming, Anda is a minority, yet she’s in a position of power compared to Raymond who is not only a foreigner who doesn’t speak English, but also a goldfarmer. They’re able to connect as outsiders of this gaming establishment and both are fighting for the right to be themselves and be seen as equals.

I have to admit that the term “gold farming” is fairly new to me (as a non-gamer), and IRL paints a very morally grey picture around that activity, what do you feel as though readers should take from the book’s portrayal of that subject?



Gold farming was new to me too until I started researching for this book. There is a lot of grey area and it’s still evolving. What I do hope the readers takes away from IRL is the ability to keep an open mind about the people on the other side of the tracks and be empathetic to their struggles. On the surface the gold farming community appears to be taking advantage of game-makers and the “purity” of the game. On the other hand the gold farmers themselves are actually big fans who can only participate by being taken advantage of.

What inspired the creation of Raymond? Both in the look of his avatar and the character’s plight in China?

I wanted the goldfarmers to look small and vulnerable compared to everyone else.  They haven’t been able to level up their characters and they’re not customized so Raymond doesn’t look any different from his peers. I also wanted them to not look human so as to “otherize” the goldfarmers in the eyes of Anda and Lucy at the beginning of the story. For Raymond’s human backstory I took a lot of inspiration from a book I read called FACTORY GIRLS: FROM VILLAGE TO CITY IN A CHANGING CHINA by Leslie T. Chang. It paints these very compassionate portraits of young female migrant workers and the everyday victories and struggles they face.  Raymond comes from a very disadvantaged background but he’s also clever and ambitious enough to get what he wants (to play Coarsegold) with the means that he has.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate as a creator publishing a book within the Young Adult literary genre? Does that affect the kinds of stories you hope to tell?



I don’t make it a point to be an educator, but I hope my stories reflect the world I’d like to see and the problems I’d like us to overcome.

If there was one-key take away or message from IN REAL LIFE that should highlighted, what would that be?

Be compassionate to others and be aware of how your role in the community may be inadvertently hurting others less privileged than you.

What’s next on the horizon for you post the release of IRL next month? Any new projects that you can share?

I have a couple new projects I can’t really talk about yet, but I’m excited to share I’m co-organizing a new comics festival in Los Angeles called Comics Arts LA. It’s a one day event that will take place on December 6th. We’ve got really great exhibitors lined up so it’s going to be fun. If any readers out there are in Southern California that weekend, I encourage you to come check it out! http://comicartsla.com

IN REAL LIFE will be available in a bookstore near you on October 14th through First Second

Seth’s Dominion documentary is showing in Montreal

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A film has been made about Seth, the single named Autuer of Clyde Fans, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, Palookaville, and countless illustrations. It’s called Seth’s Dominion, it’s directed by Luc Chamberland and it is described as “a hybrid documentary/animation film exploring the life of master cartoonist Seth.”

Given that Seth is a perfectionist, you’d expect no less of a film about him, so to no one’s surprise the film has won the Grand Prize for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival.

The film will be shown this week in Montreal as an official selection of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema.

Saturday, October 11th, 4:30 pm: 
Auditorium Alumni H-110, Hall Building 
Concordia University, 1455 boul. de Maisonneuve Ouest 
Tickets available here. 
Seth will be present and signing at this screening only!

Thursday, October 16th, 3:00 pm: 
Pavillion Judith-Jasmin Annexe 
UQAM, 405 rue Sainte-Catherine Est 
Tickets available here.

Add this to Root Hog or Die, the John Porcellino movie, Rude Dude, the Steve Rude movie—ON SALES TODAY, I might add— and some others in the works and you have a nice library of in depth films about comics makers beginning.

Jack Kirby and Marvel Settle: what we know, what we don’t

Tribute to the King by Alex Ross.

Tribute to the King by Alex Ross.

Friday’s announcement of a settlement between Jack Kirby’s heirs and Marvel seems like good news—but is it? And what does it mean?

I’m told Jeff Trexler, whose identification of the “instance and expense” aspect of the lawsuit may have helped get that into the petition to the Supremes, is writing his summary for TCJ.com, so while we all eagerly await that, here’s a little of the known knowns and known unknowns:

First off, Mark Evanier, a Kirby family confidant, a witness at various Kirby-related trials and filier of an amicus curiae brief is certainly in a position to know more of the Kirby position and this is all he had to say on the matter:

It was announced this morning that the family of Jack Kirby has settled with Marvel Comics (i.e., Disney) ending a very long dispute. The Supreme Court was only days from considering whether to take on the case and obviously, the timing of this settlement has much to do with both sides’ concern with what would get decided there.

If you’re coming to this page in search of details and commentary, you’ve come to the wrong place. I will be saying nothing about it other that I am real, real happy. And I’m sure Jack and his wife Roz, if they’re watching this from wherever they are, are real, real,real happy.

That’s either great fronting or a pretty solid indication that the Kirbys got what they were looking for. Since Evanier was intimately involved in the case, it’s probably legally all he can say. But if Mark thinks Jack is smiling, I’m smiling.

You can read all the petitions and briefs here. And you can bet a lot of people will be poring over these for a lot of reasons.

Charles Hatfield has a good round up of the ins and outs of the case itself, the many friend of the court briefs, and how the case grew in importance as more Hollywood vested interest signed on.

However, news of the cert petition reignited publicity over the case, and in May SCOTUS discussed the case in conference, after which the Court requested a response from Marvel. Then, in June, things started to happen: several important amici curiae briefs supporting the Kirbys’ petition brought high-profile attention to the case. One of these was filed on behalf of Kirby biographer Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby Collector publisher and editor John Morrow, and the PEN Center USA (a nonprofit representing diverse writers).

In addition, the California Society of Entertainment Lawyers filed a brief. Another brief that became very important for the press coverage of the  case was submitted by Bruce Lehman, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and an authority on intellectual property law. Lehman filed in collaboration with former US register of copyrights Ralph Oman, the Artists Rights Society, and the International Intellectual Property Institute; they were joined by the American Society of Illustrators, the National Cartoonists Society, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and other organizations representing arts professionals—as well as scores of cartoonists and illustrators who also signed on.

Kurt Busiek has been debunking some common myths about the case in the Beat’s own comments, but perhaps because Beat commenters are just smarter or less pig-headed than the average commenter, he saved his masterpiece in the genre for this CBR thread where he debunks from all times that the Kirby heirs were just greedy and opportunistic. (Link via Tom Spurgeon) He also speculates about the outcome, just like I’m gonna do in a few paragraphs:

Based on that, it sure doesn’t look like Marvel’s throwing the Kirbys a few bucks to go away. If that’s what they wanted to do, they could have done that any time within the last few years. Whoever blinked, it was the side that had the most to lose if the case went to the Supreme Court and risked a ruling they didn’t like.

That wasn’t the Kirbys — they were already getting nothing, so the Supreme Court deciding against them wouldn’t hurt them any.

But Disney/Marvel has billions on the line. They don’t want to risk losing that. Not even with a pro-business Supreme Court likely to rule for them. Because they’re not sure the Court would rule for them. Not with a bunch of people on the other side who make IP contracts their life — including one of the guys who helped write the 1978 Copyright Law. If that guy is saying, “No, no, it doesn’t work that way,” there’s too much of a chance that the Court will listen.

So my prediction is: All the public changes you see coming out of this are going to be favorable to the Kirbys. Probably the first thing you see will be creator credits. And the family’s going to suddenly be financially secure, like their father/grandfather wanted them to be.

What the “greedy heirs” morons don’t get is that this was a case with very important principles set off by the Copyright Law of 1976 regarding what is work for hire. As Kevin Melrose reports of a Law.com article, many issues remains undecided by the settlement, and it’s entirely possible that these will crop up again and the Supreme Court may yet hear such a case:

The Kirby heirs insisted the artist was an independent contractor who worked from home, provided his own supplies and received no benefits. However, he Second Circuit, using its frequently criticized “instance and expense” test, found that because Marvel assigned and approved projects and paid a page rate, Kirby’s contributions were indeed “for hire.”

The Kirbys took aim at the Second Circuit’s definition of work for hire in their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which drew support from the likes of Hollywood guilds and a former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, demonstrating the potentially far-reaching ramifications of the dispute. However, the 11th-hour settlement announcement arrived just ahead of a Supreme Court conference on Monday to determine whether to review the case — meaning the Second Circuit’s finding stands.

So the gray area surrounding work for hire before 1978 remains, although experts say given that 56-year window — or 35 years for copyrights transferred after 1979 — it’s only a matter time before another case, more likely to involve a musician/songwriter than a comics artist, makes its way to the Supreme Court, requiring the justices to weigh in.

As Kirby family attorney Marc Toberoff told Law.com, “At some point there will be another case like this.”

 

While it seems unlikely from the outside that SCOTUS would ever have sided with the Kirby heirs, Marvel didn’t know, and a happy smiling settlement was vastly to everyone’s benefit.  And more to the point, there’s no such thing as secret in entertainment any more. As Joshua Riviera writes for EW:

One of the great things about modern pop culture isn’t just the wealth of content available, but the interest it has spurred in the creators behind it. Showrunners, once an invisible position in the broadcast era, are now at the forefront of fans’ minds when obsessing over TV. Similarly, the public perception of filmmakers has slowly evolved from the days of the monolithic studio system to accommodate directors and screenwriters and cinematographers and composers and VFX teams and crew. Comics have come a long way from the 60s, which saw Jack Kirby slowly become frustrated with the business that grew and endures to this day thanks in large part to his labors—now many comics are sold based on the strength of the people making them. But the way comics creators are credited in other media based on their work is often lacking.

Yet, things have changed a lot from the days when Marv Wolfman was barred credits of Blade, setting off a lawsuit he eventually lost and the current spate of copyright battles. Nowadays, one imagines, Marv would be saluted at the Hall H panel and trotted around to talk shows. While it’s pretty clear that you need to lawyer up to get your share of whatever pie — mini or maxi — may exist, Marvel/Disney has become more sensitive to the bad publicity of the starving creator railing against the corporation as he rolls around in his ratty sleeping bag from his stately cardboard box on the street.

And now some speculation from me. Given the fair-enough-to-shut-them-up treatment of Jim Starlin and the family of Bill Mantlo  over Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney and Marvel seem to be on a better path now. You can attribute that to the bad optics of the cardboard box creator, but I’m pretty sure most of the top brass at Marvel proper, including Dan Buckley, Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso, would wish to see creators fairly treated if it were within their powers. (The same was undoubtedly true of Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn at DC.)

Given the huge, vocal and unending respect for the work of Jack Kirby by just about every creative type involved with all these “comic book movies,” I share the Busiek viewpoint that we’ll see more public inclusion of Kirby among the “Marvel founders.” Kirby always got acknowledgement in the credits of Marvel movies, but we could see more “created by” credits. Kirby could be inducted into the “Disney Legends” hall of fame type deal. Disney doesn’t do a ton to promote its actual creative people, but I’d expect to see Kirby enshrined as much as possible.

And now, here is my Torsten-like fantasy to end this. Maybe someday at Disneyland, as the Marvel character rides and characters and churros swirl, there could be a statue of Stan and Jack as they create the Marvel Universe as we first knew it. I’m not sure Jack would have really liked that, but the victors write history, and I’m pretty sure that Jack Kirby is a victor now.

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Marvel and Jack Kirby estate settle their disputes

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A joint statement has just been released by Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby indicating that a settlement of somekind hs been made:

“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.” 

 

HOLY CRAP.

The Kirby Estate had been suing Marvel for right to the characters Kirby created over the years, from Captain America in the 40s to the Fantastic Four in the 60s. Although every court case went against the Kirby family, recently it seemed that the case might actually go to the Supreme Court, and it may have been the unpredictable nature of the claims that led to this settlement.

While an initial wave of joy over the end of this battle is the natural emotion, one hopes that the Kirby family got something out of this and it wasn’t just keeping up appearances in the light of an ongoing battle that didn’t look like it would end favorably.

 

SPX memories…like a magical unicorn

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You can read my official SPC report at PW, with news and notes, but I’m guessing that  everyone who was at SPX is probably, like me, realizing that the magic is over and we have a whole year to go, or maybe a few weeks if you count APE, but in the meantime, I can keep the magic going a few moments more by rounding up some of the magical, mystical memories of SPX. I said there were a few people who didn’t have a good time, and you can find one of two on Tumblr who sat outside hotel rooms sadly waiting for the person with the key to come back. But if you could open your heart, SPX would make you love it. As the above picture shows, SPX is the only con where you can find Julia Wertz and Renee French just sitting and smiling with each other. It’s also the only place where someone would leave their computer just sitting out on a table (as one prominent comics personage di don Friday)and feel pretty secure that it would be just fine.  There is a reason why people puts up so many pics and blog so much about this show—it’s a full on love affair.

§ Webtooner Even Dahm gets right to the heart of the matter comparing SDCC with SPX—really the indispensable alpha and omega of US shows:

SDCC was fun but kind of discouraging, and presents an image of what is now, I guess, the Entire entertainment industry in a bluntly capitalistic way: the most space is given to the companies with the most money for it, and the events and products are talked about according to a similar hierarchy. I don’t like it but it makes its own kind of sense and it’s how things are: work that makes money has more mobility in the culture, and barring any strongly-principled management at events like this, the amount of money the work makes will be the thing that decides its place. I try really hard to not get pessimistic about this. And of course popular things can be quality things! I like a lot of popular things. But the connection between popularity and your or my specific notion of quality is tenuous.

I leave SDCC and shows like it having spent huge amounts of money the exhibit there and feeling like what I’m doing is insignificant and untenable. I want to emphasize that this is an issue I have with the philosophy of the show, not with the attendees. I have met some very excellent people who attend SDCC every year.

I came out of SPX this year extremely excited about the huge volume of beautiful and idiosyncratic work being produced by artists working outside of entrenched & monied institutions. It’ll never be the same amount of room as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or whatever, but there is room in the culture for this stuff, in terms of attention and money and enthusiasm. It’s hugely inspiring to me to see so many people making work independently or with publishers they know personally and believe in, and seeing that a lot of that work is sustainable for them, and seeing that a lot of it takes full advantage of its independence by being brutally honest, or strange, or socially conscious.

§ Loser City’s David Fairbanks, an occasional Beat contributor, made his first journey and was swept off his feet:

The next two days were a blur of comics with SPromX right in the middle, and I can honestly say I have never been in an environment that was so pro-comics. Whether you had been making minicomics as long as folks like John Porcellino and James Kochalka, you were a cartoonist fresh out of (or still in) school, or you had never once put pencil to paper to craft a comic, you were among peers. I think I speak for most of the attendees when I say that the environment at SPX felt like home, despite knowing virtually no one there before my plane landed. Over the course of the first twenty-four hours, I made fast friends with artists and fans, and I get the feeling these are friendships that are going to last. From the (sometimes exhausted) smiles I caught on the faces of nearly everyone there, I would imagine I was not alone in my joy, and I think a great deal of it stemmed from the communal feeling of SPX.

§ Even grizzled veteran Derf shared the love:

This year’s theme was a celebration of the alt-weekly cartoons, from Jules Feiffer to the end, which I believe was reached sometime last week. It’s something that is long overdue. The peak of the genre, from 1985 to 2000, produced, in my opinion, the finest, most original comix of the time. Discounting hacks like me, of course.  We were always kind of the bastard stepchildren of both the mainstream comic strip community and the indy comix community. I always felt like an outsider to both. Now I’m a B-minus Indy Comix Star, so those days are behind me, as are comic strips, but it’s nice to see the genre get it’s due.

 

§ Jane Irwin, like many, had a stellar show sales wise:
This year I had the best SPX I’ve ever had — but for some reason I neglected to take any photos other than the sad, blurry one at the top of this post (the lettered balloons were to identify the blocks of tables — I was in the “L” block). It may have been because I was just so busy at my table — the crowds were incredibly heavy and were extremely generous — I heard some folks could barely stop selling long enough to go to the bathroom, and several people sold out of books entirely on the first day, including C. Spike Trotman and my next-door neighbor, Pregnant Butch author A.K. Summers. I sold out of Clockwork Game mid-day on Sunday, but I was able to take orders for a few more copies (they went out this afternoon, and should arrive soon!) and I know I could’ve sold a dozen more, if I’d only had them on hand.
§ Roger Langridge didn’t even break even and he still had a great time:

I attended SPX this past weekend. As usual, I had an excellent time. Despite it not being a successful trip from a financial point of view (although I covered my biggest expense, I’m still somewhat out of pocket at the end of it) I’m really glad I went. I find I need SPX in my life every so often as a kind of course corrective; a reminder of the kind of comics I ought to be doing.

I have a really strong attachment to this show. SPX was the first show I ever attended in the USA, back in 2000. I was just there as a visitor, not even as an exhibitor; it was the year Will Eisner was there, I remember. I bought minicomics from Craig Thompson. I met Dean Haspiel for the first time, who went out of his way to make me feel like a part of the community, which I will always be grateful for. Attending that show energised me to turn my Fred the Clown webcomic into a self-published comic book, which in turn has led to every opportunity I’ve had in comics since then. Without SPX, it’s probably fair to say that my subsequent career wouldn’t have happened.

So I keep coming back. Not every year, but I try to do at least every other year. And each time, I feel like it’s a timely reminder that these are the kinds of comics I ought to be doing: comics straight from the cartoonist’s brain to the reader’s hands, without compromises.

 

§ It’s not just a place to hang out! You can get work!!! Game designer \ Daniel Solis says it’s a great place to find new talent. And I know animation scouts go every year:

I came into the fandom a bit late, but it’s such a welcoming and vibrant community that I never felt out of place. After weeks of awful news coming from gamer culture, it was such a positive experience at SPX seeing diverse creators and fans in a niche community all supporting each other. It can happen, people! I’ve seen it! But I really recommend SPX to tabletop game designers because it is an excellent place to network with lots of undiscovered and rising talent. You can check out the artists I talked to at SPX on my pinterest board here. Specifically for “SPX 2014″ tag in the description. Also check out the SPX Tumblr and Twitter feeds for more cool arts.

 

§ Joshua O’Neill of Locust Moon captures the unique nature of Camp Comics at the Marriott:

As usual, half of the reason for the glory of SPX is due to the Bethesda Marriott Hotel, whose comfy confines are given over completely to the endless array of misfits that we call a comics industry. It’s more than just a con venue — it’s the eye of the storm, for one brief weekend this one building is the center of the comics universe. You exhibit there, you drink there, you draw there, you sleep there. (You eat elsewhere and abruptly realize there’s such a thing as outside.) By the end of the weekend it feels like home. I’m not sure Jesse Reklaw ever put on a pair of shoes. To the maids and bellhops it must be kind of like going to the zoo, if the animals were all inside of your house. Their hospitality was stunning, and can in no way be attributed to the eight bazillion dollars they generated in overpriced drink sales.

 

And visual representations:

And so on and so forth….I probably could have found a half dozen more similar tributes, but I’ll leave with just a few representative photos.

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Am I the only person who caught the TV in the bar switching from football to vibrator infomercials on Friday?

 

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Can you believe these people are all FIRST TIME SPXers? Okay Chris Butcher went before, but he hadn’t been to the “new” venue, which is really the only venue most people know. Amy Chu, Louie Chin, Murilo, Butcher and Brigid Alverson were all converts by the end of the weekend.

 

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Fun and frolic at the SPromX. Looks like it will be back next year…and so will I.

Move over Haspiel, there’s a new shirtless cartoonist in town


We’re all for body confidence here at Stately Beat Manor, so go Simon Hanselmann! A lot of brides tone it down after getting married, but he is staying fabulous.

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Meanwhile, tour mate Michael DeForge managed to MAKE A COMIC WHILE ON TOUR. Move over rest of the comics industry.

The Deforge/Hanselmann/Kyle tour is coming to a town near you.

Alison Bechdel wins a MacArthur Foundation Grant

 

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Alison Bechdel has been named one of this year’s MacArthur Foundation grant winners, often known as a genius grant.

Bechdel was cited for being

…a cartoonist and graphic memoirist exploring the complexities of familial relationships in multilayered works that use the interplay of word and image to weave sophisticated narratives. Bechdel’s command of sequential narrative and her aesthetic as a visual artist was established in her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1983–2008), which realistically captured the lives of women in the lesbian community as they influenced and were influenced by the important cultural and political events of the day.

The grant confers not only recognition as a leading thinker, but a stipend of 625,000, paid in quarterly installments over five years. Recipients are chosen for their future potential and the grant allows is intended to “encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.”

Bechdel’s achievements in furthering the medium of the graphic novel—and her immense potential for future work—indeed makes her a worthy recipient. As if being a great cartoonist wasn’t enough, the musical adaptation of her book, Fun Home is coming to Broadway next April.

Cartoonist Ben Katchor was the first cartoonist to win a grant in 2000.

Michael DeForge’s shelf porn is made for action

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Zainab Akhtar’s excellent Comics and Cola blog runs a feature called “Comics Shelfies” which includes pictures of various comics collections. Usually the Expedit or Billy is called into play, but for Michael DeForge, the plastic milk crate is the basic storage unit. I can definitely relate, as for years my life was based around the much loved “Mard” from Ikea, which they stopped making ten years ago. DeForge’s collection is gorgeous and somehow poised for just the kind of action you’d expect from the animator/cartoonist.