Jul
30

Avenging the Week – SDCC Leftovers

Posted by Jamaal Thomas on Saturday, July 30th, 2011 at 11:02:01 PM

With the flood of news last week from San Diego, its inevitable that some things will escape notice. Here are two overlooked picks from the San Diego Comic Con, along with some other ephemera.

At DC’s Vertigo panel, Derek McCulloch announced Gone to Amerikay, an original graphic novel about Irish immigration to the United States over the last 140 years that he worked on with Colleen Doran and Jose Villarubia. McCulloch described the book as a “historial epic with a crime story and a ghost story and a couple of love stories and all kinds of things in it”. Sounds intriguing. Here’s a preview:

gonetoamerikaypreview

Nate Powell, author of 2009′s Swallow Me Whole, a critically acclaimed comic about young siblings struggling with neurological disorders, premiered Any Empire, a new original graphic novel for Top Shelf Comics. In Any Empire, Powell explores childhood, fantasy, violence and the pervasive presence of military culture in America. Check out Chris Mautner’s interview with Powell for Robot 6. Any Empire is due in stores on August 9th. I can’t wait.

any empire 03

I love his use of negative space.

One Soul. A book by Ray Fawkes that simultaneously follows the lives of eighteen individuals from a number of time periods from gestation to maturity one panel at a time and weaves them into a narrative about spiritual journeys. It’s the kind of narrative that would make an excellent prose book or film, but a comic book? Fawkes raises the stakes by telling the stories in a unique manner that brings a mosaic to mind. In the words of iFanboy’s Paul Montgomery, “every page is part of a two page spread of 18 panels. Each of those panels is devoted to one of the 18 characters”. Confused? Check out an excerpt below.

ONE SOUL PREVIEW 33 - 34

I admit it, this is a cheat – this book was announced at C2E2 and is currently available at your local comic book shop, bookstore or Amazon, but I found out about it during SDCC, so I’m including it anyway.

Other Interesting Links

One More Thing: On July 28th, the US Southern District granted Marvel Comics’ motion for summary judgment against Jack Kirby’s estate, concluding that Kirby’s work for the publisher from 1958-1963 were “works for hire” as defined by the Copyright Act of 1909. In 1972, Kirby signed an adhesive agreement in which he assigned any property interest in any of the works he created for Marvel to the publisher. The Kirby heirs sought to terminate his assignment of his federally protected copyrights in these works purusant to the Copyright Act of 1976. After negotiations failed, Marvel went to court for an official declaration that it owned the property in question, since the agreement signed in 1972 also contained an acknowledgement that the work Kirby had done for Marvel was as an employee for hire. The court decided that there were no material issues of fact and that Marvel was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Read the decision (pdf) here and commentary from Colleen Doran here. This is a tragedy for the Kirby family, but it’s hard to imagine a different outcome.

As Judge McMahon wrote, “this case is not about whether Jack Kirby or Stan Lee is the real “creator” of Marvel characters, or wheether Kirby (and other freelance artists who cerated culturally iconic comic book characters for Marvel and other publishers) were treated “fairly” by companies that grew rich off the fruit of their labor”. It’s important to distinguish between natural and legal rights – the court system is not the only (and sometimes not the best) way to resolve controversies. There are other ways.

Stephen Bissette (artist of Swamp Thing, horror anthology Taboo and Tyrant) recognizes this distinction, and advocates for a fan boycott of Marvel products:

“I don’t question the legal logic Marvel’s attorneys made, and the court decision reflects. However, nothing is being said about the conditions under which Kirby signed, and was pressured to sign, the contracts presented. I don’t think “extortion” is too unfair a word to use, particularly in the very public case of the Marvel artwork “return” contracts.

That is a moral issue here, and Marvel’s pattern of decades of effectively slandering, maligning, and dimissing Kirby and his legacy is, too.

If, in the 1970s, Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson hadn’t rallied around Siegel & Shuster, who had multiple signed settlement contracts with National Periodicals to wield against them, agreements they had signed over their lifetimes (agreements they and their legal reps—like Albert Zugsmith—had negotiated), nothing would have changed.

Adams and Robinson brought to the public the moral case, the moral outrage, over the treatment of the creators of Superman.

At that time, the legal matters were considered “settled.”

C’mon, folks: Jack changed a century, the medium, the industry, our lives, and Marvel.

Let’s change how the rest of this onfolding story goes.”

Read the whole thing. It’s an incredibly compelling argument. I’m tempted to say that this won’t make a difference. Marvel is an extremely profitable arm of a multibillion dollar media company and is far less vulnerable to collective action than it was fifteen years ago. I don’t know if readers would be willing to forgo entertainment for an abstract principle – the last boycott was about the quality of the books being published. I wonder if the majority of fans even know who Jack Kirby is, other than Stan Lee’s sidekick. I fear that any call to collective action will reveal the reactionary vein in comic fandom. I’m afraid that it won’t matter. But even if it doesn’t make any difference at all, I don’t know if I can justify continued economic support of an unjust system.

Posted in Articles, Avenging the Week · Read more by Jamaal Thomas

3 Responses

  1. The idea that the majority of comic fans would not know the extent of Jack Kirby’s contributions to Marvel Comics is mind-boggling to me.

    I do wonder when Marvel has ever “slandered” or “maligned” Kirby, though. I may not be the biggest comics fan out there, but I’ve never heard of such a thing.

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