Home Columns Kibbles 'n' Bits Kibbles ‘n’ Bits — 6/27/11

Kibbles ‘n’ Bits — 6/27/11


This is practically all kibbles and legal bits, but that seems to be where things are going.

§ Canadian retailer Chris Butcher speaks out on the CBLDF’s new case, involving an American man arrested at the Canadian border for possessing manga images deemed pornographic:

If you are a fan of any manga or anime, if you are a fan of comics, if you have even one comics page, anime clip, or “dirty” picture on your computer, tablet, or phone, this is about you. This is about you being pulled aside, searched, your electronics confiscated to be sent away for weeks and months, all because you’ve got scans of Naruto on your desktop. This isn’t about “child porn” or any variation thereof, this is about legally equating a description of a thing–written or drawn–with the real thing.

§ DC is suing a California custom car manufacturer for selling Batmobile replicas. Gotham Garage apparently specializes in all thing Bat-like where cars are concerned, as a website blurb reveals:

Gotham Garage is your One-Stop Shop for all your Star Car needs. We can best fulfill all your Batmobile needs! We specialize in building the Best Driving and Best Sports Car Performance Star Car Replicas available in the world: Batman Forever Batmobile Replica – Batman Batboat Replica – Batman 1989 Batmobile Replica – Batman 1966 Batmobile Replica – Speed Racer Mach 5 Replica- Munster’s Koach Replica – Herbie The Love Bug Replica- Custom Choppers and Bikes. The movie cars you saw Adam West and Burt Ward – Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson – Speed Racer and Racer X – Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis – Dean Jones and Lindsay Lohan amaze you with on the BIG SCREEN!

Sounds like an open and shut case since DC owns the Batmobile, right? Well, according to the first linked article, not so fast:

There has been some chatter about whether or not DC Comics can claim infringement over the Batmobile when, in fact, the Batmobile was created by George Barris by modifying a 1955 Lincoln Futura. In support of this argument, some have brought up a trademark infringement suit between Carrol Shelby, the designer of the “Cobra,” and a replica manufacturer “Factory Five” in which Shelby claimed that the replicas being sold infringed on his ownership of the Cobra design. The court ruled against Shelby’s trademark claim, stating that the Cobra design was not his property and that because he did not have an active role in the marketplace, his proper method of protection should have been a design patent or copyright.

§ On another front, the NY Times takes a look at the seismic legal battle between Marvel and the heirs of Jack Kirby:

According to court documents, Marvel’s predecessor company fired nearly all of the art staff in 1957 to save money, making Mr. Kirby an independent operator who sold his work to the publisher. If this case comes to trial, Marvel’s star witness would likely be Mr. Lee, former chairman of Marvel Comics. In his 2010 deposition, Mr. Lee seemed to suggest that Mr. Kirby was little more than a talented foot soldier who followed the whims of his boss. Mr. Lee sang a different tune during the Marvel glory years of the 1960s, when he sometimes described Mr. Kirby as an equal in the creative process. In a 1968 interview later quoted in The Comics Journal, Mr. Lee talked about brainstorming with Mr. Kirby, who, he noted, needed “no plot at all” to produce stories: “He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing. … He’s so good at plots, I’m sure he’s a thousand times better than I.” Analyzing published articles from that period, the writer Earl Wells, in his famous 1995 essay “Once and for All, Who Was the Author of Marvel?,” said the record “yields as much evidence that Kirby was the author as it does that Lee was — much of it in Lee’s own words!”

§ Is Seth’s clyde Fans about to come true?

§ BTW for those of you following along on the women in comics debates, it seems that SF is also being scrutinized for female underrepresentation.

  1. In before the first vicious personal attack on the Kirby heirs.

    Sounds like an interesting case, and far from the open-and-shut question that it may have seemed at first.

    It’s my understanding that Marvel started rubber-stamping a release onto the back of its paychecks sometime in the 70s, or late 60s at the latest. That isn’t even legal, of course, but it does indicate that the question of intellectual property ownership was open up until that point.

    This article implies that this state of affairs may have begun in 1957, which would certainly suggest that Kirby was working as an independent contractor during Marvel’s glory days.

  2. In the NYT article:

    These cases are small fry compared with the battle now being waged between Marvel and the heirs of the legendary comic artist Jack Kirby, who breathed life into such pop culture icons as the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor and the Silver Surfer.

    Including Spider-Man in the list was a mistake, but I doubt that the Times’ writer is the only one who’s made it.


  3. Synsider: “Including Spider-Man in the list was a mistake, but I doubt that the Times’ writer is the only one who’s made it.”

    But the Kirby heirs ARE suing over the rights to Spider-Man.

  4. “Synsider: “Including Spider-Man in the list was a mistake, but I doubt that the Times’ writer is the only one who’s made it.”

    But the Kirby heirs ARE suing over the rights to Spider-Man.”

    IIRC they are suing over rights to his costume which Kirby designed.

  5. If the Kirby estate is correct that no one was “in house” at the dawn of the Marvel era, could Steve Ditko attempt to claim a share of Spider-Man? That would be interesting tussle, since he is still alive (though he may not be interested in such a legal wrangle). He might also be a potential witness for the Kirby estate. While it is unlikely that he would agree that Kirby contributed to the creation of Spider-Man, he might have evidence concerning Marvel’s general practices in that era.

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