Authors: New comic books full of sex, violence

TEMPE, Ariz. – There’s something for parents to watch out for.

Some comic book authors are worried about what kids might see while reading new stories of their favorite super heroes.

DC Comics is targeting a more mature audience with its re-launch of comics like “Superman.” Some say the new comics have more sex.

One of the few women comic writers in the business is G. Willow Wilson. The Wall Street Journal said that Wilson wrote that she has to “rush to her comic book pile” every time kids under 14 start to look at them because “some issues constitute soft porn. Never before did it occur to me how bizarre that is…having to keep a kid away from comics.

Russ Kamierczak is the author of the “Amazina Arizona Comics.” It’s a series of comic books that take a satirical look at current Arizona politics. But he’s also been a fan of comic books for over 20 years and couldn’t believe what he saw when he browsed through some new material at a comic book store.

“So I picked up Catwoman Number one to see what’s going on,” said Kazmierczak. “Catwoman’s a household name, everyone knows who Catwoman is. But on the last page, she and Batman are getting ready to ‘get it on.’ It’s very explicit.”

Kazmierczak said sex has always been a part of comic books. He says “Wonder Woman” is one example, going back to the 1940’s.

“When men bound Wonder Woman, that was her weakness. That was her Kryptonite. She had to break out of those binds,” said Kazmierczak. “At the same time, her weapons were a lasso that tied up men and convicted them to tell the truth. She had bullet-reflecting bracelets which could look like S and M gear nowadays if somebody wears them right.”

Kazmierczak said what was in comic books in the past was subtle compared to what is in comic books now. The Wall Street Journal said the size of the breasts of women characters is “exaggerated” with “exposed cleavage.” The Journal said there is “serious debate about sex and violence in comics online between comic writers, artists and editors.”

Some are saying the comics are also more violent. Kazmierczak said violence in comics is nothing new.

“In the 1940s, superheros were punching out Nazis. They were supporting the war effort, and it was almost patriotic.” Kazmierczak said.

After the war ended, the violence lost a focus. Writers in the ’50s turned the superheros to fighting gangsters. Kazmierczak said the 1960s were what he calls the “Adam West Batman era,” influenced by the campy “Batman” television series and it’s phrases that showed words like “Pow” and “Zoom” every time Batman and Robin threw a punch. Kazmierczak said it’s “hard to say” whether the comics are more violent than they were in the past.

Kazmierczak is concerned about the sex. DC has started a line of “family friendly” comic books called “DC Kids.” Kazmierczak fears that young people may find it too boring and reject it.

Kazmierczak noted that comic book companies have started putting ratings on their books, much like those that are on movies.

Kazmierczak had this advice for parents: When you take your kids to the comic book store, don’t just sit in the car and wait while they go inside. Go in with them. Take a look at what’s on the shelves. Get involved and see that your kids are picking up books that are appropriate for them. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask those who work at the store. Kazmierczak said there are many good comic book stores in the valley where the employees know the comics, and can give you good advice.


Alan Moore vs. DC Comics: The Story Behind The “Unpleasentness”

In the 1980?s Alan Moore was one of DC Comics most important writers, crafting immensely interesting and enduring takes on Superman and Batman, reviving the character of Swamp Thing (helping to create the character of John Constantine), and writing what is considered to be the greatest graphic novel of all time, Watchmen. So why in 1989 just after the release of his follow up series, V for Vendetta, did Moore leave the company and has been on bad terms with them since? Sadly it’s because of that age old problem: money.

Back then, DC had a pretty standard contract for their talent, one that stated DC owned the rights to a comic just as long as they used the characters in some form, usually by printing new edition of a book. If in one year the characters weren’t used, the rights would revert back to Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. This was the normal way to do business at DC as it was unheard of at that time to produce multiple printings of the same graphic novel. Then Watchmen happened. The popularity of the book exploded, leaving quite a cash cow in DC’s hands, one that they would never hand over the rights to anyone else. Add to that a dispute over merchandising (Moore and Gibbons never received any money from the Watchmen badge set, which DC defined as a ‘promotional item’), and reports that the creators only earned 2% of the overall profits made by the series. Moore wasn’t a happy man so he left, leaving at least one project unfinished, which I will talk about in a future article. But sadly this wasn’t the last time he and DC would clash.

After leaving DC, Moore set up an independent comic publishing company, Mad Love, which he initially used to focus on various political causes. Alongside Mad Love, he also began producing material for another independent called Taboo, which published From Hell and with who he began work on Lost Girls, which finally saw print in 2006. He worked as an independent for a few years before, in 1993, he made his way back to the mainstream and started writing superhero comics again, this time for Image Comics. He wrote stories for the company’s most popular characters, including Spawn and WildC.A.T.S., before joining Image co-founder Rob Liefeld in his own company, Awesome Comics. Moore stayed there for a few years, but was unhappy because the people he worked for seemed to “be less than gentlemen”. He left Awesome Comics, and joined Jim Lee’s company WildStorm Productions in 1999.

One of the carrots dangled in Moore’s face by Lee was the chance to make his own imprint, which he named Americas Best Comics. Through ABC he created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong, Promethea and Top Ten. But everything was far from perfect. Not long after Moore joined Wildstorm, Lee sold the company to DC, forcing him to work with the company he vowed never to work with again. Moore decided to go ahead with the imprint because there was too many people involved to back out, and DC assured him that they would not interfere directly with his work. They, of course, lied. One instance had an entire print run of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #5 destroyed because an advertisement in the story bore the word ‘marvel’. To avoid any friction with Marvel Comics, DC Executive Paul Levitz ordered a reprint with the advertisement amended to ‘amaze’. Also, a story involving Moore’s character Cobweb and references to American occultist Jack Parsons and his ritual “The Babalon Working” was blocked by DC due to, what they called, the subject matter. It was later revealed that a similar story was already published in their publication The Big Book of Conspiracies. With his stories planned for ABC coming to an end, and his increasing dissatisfaction with DC, Moore left Wildstorm, returning to independent comic publication. He retained the rights to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, launching a new saga with Volume III: Century, published by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics.

So there it is, the full story of a ‘war’ between Alan Moore and DC comics. Moore hasn’t hid his contempt for the company, saying pretty defamatory things in interviews and through other media. I find myself falling on Moore’s side in this one. He doesn’t own the rights to his most popular story and characters, thats like if George Lucas didn’t own Star Wars (though some people would see that as a good thing). What do you think?



Get Drawn To Comics, Cartoons, Culture

Comic art today is considered just that—art.

It’s known to the scholars as “sequential art.” And it’s highly valued. The materials that were used to create cartoons, either in storyboard, production painting or animation cel form fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars in a collectors’ market.

But those materials haven’t always been saved. They were often given away or discarded. The comic book was printed, the movie was shot—and the materials used to create them were no longer deemed useful.

With so few examples left from certain time periods, what remains is prized. Maybe you’re rich and you can afford an original panel of Peanuts drawn by Charles M. Schulz, or an MGM animation cel featuring a 1940s blonde bombshell supervised by Tex Avery. But the rest of us are better off visiting them at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art at 594 Broadway [between Houston and Prince] in New York City.

We didn’t have to go far to find comic fans to talk to about the museum. East Brunswick Patch Editor John Saccenti was readily available to us.

“It’s amazing how far comic art has come in since Superman burst on to the scene in 1938.” he said. “From disposable entertainment, to cartoons, toys and movies, these heroes have become a part of our culture in a way no one could have seen, and it all started with the simple comic book.”

The museum benefits from location, primarily because the two foremost publishers of comic books, Marvel and DC, are both headquartered in the city. In that respect, there are plenty of opportunities to have industry people come in to host events and speak about the medium.

The museum has previously hosted events spotlighting artists like Will Eisner [The Spirit] and movie and television examples [a recent show at MoCCA highlighted Pee-Wee’s Playhouse].

Freelance Patch writer Don Smith is also a comic book creator, and he recalled favorites from his recollections.

“I liked [George] Perez and [Neal] Adams because they were realistic in their styles,” he said. “When the comics first appeared in the 1930s and 1940s the comics had a ‘cartoony’ [feel], but they treated their characters as if they were real characters, and I appreciated that. Long before Michael Keaton or Christian Bale would dress as Batman, they treated Batman as a serious character.”

“Any medium as influential as this deserves to be recognized for what it is: fine art. MoCCA puts this work where it belongs and gives it the long overdue credit and respect it deserves,” Saccenti said.

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art explores the entire medium of art produced for storytelling, and now that comic book characters are hot properties in Hollywood, it seemed a great choice for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.


Estimated Travel Time: About 55 minutes by car, if you don’t hit traffic on the way into NYC.

Why it’s Worth the Trip:  Sequential art, whether it is on a page or on a screen, is a part of pop culture as much as it is a part of American life and youth. MoCCA is a place to see how it has grown over the years.

How to Get There from Here: ?Detailed driving directions?

You’ll Probably Get Hungry:  When in New York, finding food is no difficult task, but choosing might be. Start at MasterChef’s Joe Bastianich’s Eataly NY, the Shake Shack at Madison Avenue near Madison Square Park, Hill Country Chicken or Junoon Indian cuisine. If you’re on the move, hit Mangia To Go for quick Italian specialties. Or, you know … it’s New York. Wander about. You’ll find something.

While You’re in the Area:  Stretch out at a yoga session at Bikram Yoga, look for holiday-oriented items at Santa’s Best, or try on something a little more [ahem] mature at Fredericks Lingerie. If you want to explore the area some more, try the Center For Book Arts, the Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library or try The Rubin Museum of Arta nonprofit cultural and educational institution dedicated to the art of the Himalayas.

Danny Fingeroth has been a major figure in comic books for a long time, having worked under legendary superhero creator Stan Lee and then Marvel Editor In Chief Jim Shooter. He is now presenting a course in comic book and graphic novel writing at MoCCA.

His initial tenure happened at the moment comic art was becoming accepted as something of great value, attaining a collectability and respect.

“Of course, not every piece of comics art is super-valuable,” Fingeroth said. “It depends on who the artist or artists are, the characters, the popularity of the title the art appeared in, and many other factors. Interestingly, many comics artists still work on paper [as opposed to electronically] so they can have original art to sell.”

The comic book arrived at an important time in history, getting deeply into the culture prior to World War II and becoming a potent voice in the war effort during that time. The red, white and blue of both Superman and Captain America’s costumes were purposefully used to evoke patriotism and morale. In the 1960s, the medium stretched out with material considered “corrupting” and “risqué” in the famous/infamous EC Comics Company’s lineup. A major member of that group is author Stephen King, who cited EC Comics for “aiding and abetting my love of the night.”

The sixties also saw the rise of the “underground comix,” fostered by the counter-culture of the age and typified by characters like Fritz the Cat, artists such as Robert Crumb, and an extremely liberal attitude toward depictions of sex, drugs and violence.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the medium changed again, taking on topics such as the difficulties of youth culture [Spider-Man], drug abuse [Green Arrow discovers his sidekick is a junkie], and race relations [Captain America’s sidekick The FalconBlack Panther andStorm from X-Men help break the four-color color barriers].

In the 1980s, the medium shifted once more, this time toward the dark as characters like the multiple-personality-inflicted Moon Knight appeared, and a deadly serious, brooding Batman re-emerged from a campy sidetrip during the swinging ’60s.

All these changes are on display at MoCCA.

“But the museum isn’t just a look back at the origins of summer blockbuster heroes,” Saccenti said. “It also takes a look at some of the most influential cartoonists and artists around. Works by the great Will Eisner have been spotlighted and an exhibit dealing with Watchmen highlighted a series that set the tone for the comic book medium for years to come.”

As for right now, Fingeroth said, there is no better time than now for substantive comic book storytelling.

“We’re in a golden age of comics creativity, given the diverse range of graphic novels, manga, webcomics, and so on,” he said. “True, the traditional comic books don’t have the sales they once did, but people love to be told stories, and the popularity of the superhero and other comics-based movies proves that the characters and stories are as popular, if not more so, than ever, even if the genre of comics that spawned them is in transition.”

The Museum’s regular hours are Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. General Admission is $6, but children 10 and under get admitted for free.


Artist Nicola Scott to Draw Three Issues of DC Comics’ ‘Superman’ [Preview]

Best known for her work on Birds of Prey, Teen Titans and Secret Six, artist Nicola Scott will draw DC Comics’ Superman title for three issues, filling in for artists George Pérez and Jesus Merino. While Pérez’s always lovely work will be missed, Scott is a fan-favorite artist whose absence from the New 52 line had been conspicuous, especially given criticism of DC Comics for staffing its massive publishing initiative with so few female creators. As previously announced, Scott is also working on a relaunch of Justice Society of America with writer James Robinson.

Scott will pencil Superman #3, on sale November 23, as well as future issues #5 and #6. Solicitations indicate Pérez and Merino will handle issue #4. Merino will resume work sans-Pérez with issue #7, which also introduces new co-writers Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens. You can check out four pages of Scott’s Superman #3 work after the cut.

[Via The Source]


Hidden Gems of Comics: SUPERMAN: EMPEROR JOKER

Our story begins with another typical night in Gotham City. The world’s greatest hero, Bizarro, is patrolling the city. The worlds greatest villain, Superman, has yet again escaped from his cell in Arkham Asylum. Bald billionaire Lois Lane watches over the city from her LaneCorp headquarters………Yes, I was confused too.

Masterminded by, amongst others, Jeph Loeb, J.M. DeMatteis, Ed McGuinness, and Joe Kelly, Emperor Joker was a crossover that ran across then Superman titles Superman, Superman: Man of Steel, Action Comics and Adventures of Superman. In it, Joker had somehow been granted ultimate power which he used to remake the world in his own image. Needless to say, things went a little crazy. The only person who remembered the world as it was Superman, who takes it upon himself to bring the world back to the way it was.

The storyline began with Superman: Arkham, which threw Superman into this crazy world with no explanation of how it got that way. It wasn’t till the last page of that arc, with the reveal of a cube shaped earth with all landmasses making up the face of the Joker, that Emperor Joker truly kicked off. It’s a fantastically weird story with so many great touches (Plastic Man now turns himself into any credit card he can imagine, ) and fourth wall breaks (Joker at one point changes the alphabet, leading to a dialogue box full of unintelligible symbols) that you would believe that the writers were raving mad men themselves. It’s not all fun and games though, it is the Joker we are talking about here, and gets quite dark in places, especially when the fate of Batman is revealed. It’s quite shocking, and really shows how sadistic the Joker is.

This is by far my favorite Joker story (I can hear fans of The Killing Joke sharpening their pitch forks as I type this). It shows him letting loose, fulfilling all his fantasies and reveling in the full extent of his sadism (he eats the entire population of China!) now that there is nobody around to stop him. It’s a really fun version of character, his Deadpool-esque asides to the reader are hilarious, and there is an extremely sweet (yes, really) scene between him and Harley that shows how much he really cares for his former psychiatrist turned girlfriend/punching bag. Also his relationship with Batman is explored, which really sheds a new light on their dynamic.

There are a few minor niggles with it. The art changes way too drastically from issue to issue, a problem most crossover running over ongoing series suffer, and Bizarro plays a big part which means his backwards speech begins to grate after a very short while. But other than that, it’s a really fun story and well worth a read.



‘Noel’ takes ‘Christmas Carol’ under Batman’s wing

Now it’s Batman’s turn.

In Lee Bermejo’s graphic novel Batman: Noël, the Caped Crusader takes center stage in a superheroic take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The holiday-themed tome comes out Wednesday in comic shops and in bookstores Nov. 8.

MORE: Check out an exclusive preview of Batman: Noël

In Noël, Bob is a lower-class guy in Gotham City trying to keep a roof over the head of his boy. To make some extra money he starts working for the Joker. Batman shakes him down and decides to use Bob to lure his arch-nemesis into his Batarang-wielding clutches.

Along the way, though, the Dark Knight is visited by an apparition of his dearly departed partner Robin. And instead of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, it’s Catwoman, Superman and the Joker himself who help Batman see the situation in a different light.

Noël marks the first writing gig for the self-taught artist. Bermejo teamed with scribe Brian Azzarello for the disturbing psychological graphic novel Joker in 2008, and after he finished he wanted to do something in the vein of a children’s book that was naïve and fun, especially for younger Bat-fans.

“It terrifies me when kids walk up to me with Joker at conventions, and I’m like, ‘Who’s letting you buy this?'” Bermejo says. “If you’re going to give your kid a Superman comic or a Batman comic, which one do you think is more suitable? It goes without saying you choose the Superman one.

“My tendency is to do dark stuff,” he adds. “It’s an interesting juxtaposition to do a character like Batman and make it look real and atmospheric and dark, and give people something that maybe isn’t necessarily just that.”

Since Noël was based on A Christmas Carol, there was a certain structure to follow. Bermejo added a blue-collar narrator to tell the story in a very informal way, and found that Batman nicely fit into the main character’s mold. Scrooge doesn’t mind stepping on a few people as a means to an end, and neither does the superhero.

“Very much like the character of Scrooge, as a younger man he was presented as a disturbed but bright fellow — he wasn’t quite that bitter old man. That’s very easily analogous to Batman’s own history,” Bermejo explains.

“In the past 25 years he’s become this very robotic, unstoppable force of will — almost like the Terminator or Robocop. He almost loses humanity to me in that way. That’s what made it interesting to play up that in the book, and juxtapose that with little scenes of him as the Adam West-y Batman to make a subtle statement on, hey, this is Batman right now.”

Bermejo also harked to the ’60s Batman TV show with his Julie Newmar-inspired Catwoman, who’s a little more innocent than the one in modern comics as she reminds Batman of past adventures. Superman acts as a conscience for Batman with recent events, and the Joker appears when the hero sees what could happen if he ends up 6 feetunder before his time.

With the graphic novel, Bermejo wanted to appeal to casual consumers of Batman entertainment, be it the occasional comic reader or movie watcher who maybe doesn’t know exactly how many Robins there have been in Dark Knight history.

At the same time, he’s amazed at how many people know that one of the Robins died on Batman’s watch. “My mother knows that,” Bermejo says. “That’s more part of the canon of Batman that the general public knows about, as well as the ’60s Batman and now the darker, more serious interpretations.

“My hope is that there’s something familiar in it, and there’s also maybe something that can introduce them to that Batman world.”


Book Review: The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir by Michael Uslan

About two weeks ago the newest Batman video game, Arkham City, was released. There were about 25 people at our local GameStop for the midnight release, not a terrible showing for our small town. Its predecessor, Arkham Asylum, received perfect ratings and great reviews. Arkham City has ‘game of the year’ buzz surrounding it. In 2008 The Dark Knight broke box office records and has come to be regarded as not only one of the greatest comic book movies ever made but also as a powerful and intelligent film in general.

The point? Batman is big, popular, marketable. The character has transcended the campiness of the ’60s and has begun to overshadow his old competitor (in the comic book world), Superman. Michael Uslan is one of the many people responsible for bringing about this Batman renaissance. Every superhero has an origin story (and Hollywood’s been rife with them of late; some handled horribly, read Wolverine, and some handled with elan such as Batman Begins), and it would seem that Uslan wanted to tell his own origin story. Thus we have the book The Boy Who Loved Batman, Uslan’s memoir.

Essentially, he sets out to tell the tale of how he loved comic books as a child, Batman being among his favorites, and how he brought a serious Batman to the silver screen. He gives us the highlights of his life as he reveals the plot of his Batman quest. As a young boy he was able to meet some influential people in the comic industry — Otto Binder, C.C. Beck, Bob Kane, Carmine Infantino, Bill Finger. He recounts attending the first ComiCon. He talks about his friends and the comics he collected. He boasts about becoming the first professor of comic books at Indiana University.

Then we have the story of how Uslan became a lawyer for film companies and how this later assisted him as he produced his own features. Towards the latter part of the book we get to meet Tim Burton and understand his influence on the classic 1989 Batman. He briefly tells about the influence that Christopher Nolan had on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Smartly, he leaves out Batman Forever and Batman Robin, although I believe he is also the producer of those two atrocities. It’s kind of hard to understand how he was able to reconcile himself to producing those movies after his proclaimed quest to bring a serious Batman to the world. It would have been interesting to read about that conflict.

The memoir, while not in comic book format — as in panels and pictures — feels like a comic book and is definitely influenced by Uslan’s love of comic book heroes. He tells a very general story — the dates aren’t solid, chronology seems to jump around. He describes his basic relationship with his brother, which has Wolverine/Sabretooth overtones to it, but it never felt like a complete analysis to me. He presents basic facts, names of progenitors, repeats the philosophies his mother, father, and father-in-law instilled in him (like Spiderman’s Uncle Ben) but there’s nothing in depth.

Really, it was like listening to John Madden analyze a football game. Every play and every player was always the best he’d ever seen, etc., etc. But on occasion there were some insightful comments made; the man did know the game. Uslan’s book feels the same way. The man loves comic books, not just Batman, comics in general. Batman is just the most well known aspect of his love. There are some insightful comments made and, every once in a while, some good literary metaphors thrown about, even if they seem a little too heavy for Batman and comic books (Michael and Superman as Moses, really?).

The Boy Who Loved Batman is more like conjoined blog postings than an actual scholarly work or useful biography. But I suppose it has its place. And, the current series of Batman movies are outstanding, so it seems that Uslan can have a few plaudits for that.

View the original article on


Friday Trending Topics: John Byrne, Jim Shooter, And Superman

There’s something about a good origin story that just never gets old — even as it gets revamped and retold, and passed down through generations as one of the clearest examples of comics as mythology.  It’s pretty interesting to hear about what goes on behind the scenes of those retelling as well…

Most-Read Comic Stories Today:

Lara-El Almost Came To Earth Twice…

Not only was that John Byrne’s original plan for Superman at DC, it was also his original plan previously at Marvel, when the company was exploring the offer from DC to license. Jim Shooter recalls;

SFW Screencaps From The Iron Man XXX Trailer

A hardcore trailer has been released for the upcoming Iron Man XXX A Porn Parody DVD from Extreme Comixxx. Well, we don’t want to sully your mind with that kind of rot, so here are some screencaps to spare your blushes. And yes, the Hulk is in it. And so is Madame Masque.

And Finally… X-Men Gender Bending

Changing genders in the Xbooks has always been a bit of a theme. And I don’t just mean Mystique. But one CBR poster, timberoo, has taken this to a new science. Posting on those forums and his own DeviantArt page, he’s created a CG galley of X-Men as X-Women and vice versa.

Most-Read TV/Film/Game Stories Today:

Jim Lee Draws Leonard As Lion-O In The Big Bang Theory

Last night’s Big Bang Theory took place in the local comic store, still full of first issues of the New 52 from DC Comics. But it was other properties that got highlighted last night, with John Byrne’s Next Men being picked up as the first appearance of Hellboy, and Leonard showing off his Jim Lee sketch of himself as Lion-O from Thundercats.

Batman:Arkham City – The Bleeding Cool Review

Arkham City is deep.

Beetlejuice Sequel To Star Michael Keaton In “True Continuation 26 Years Later”

So, here’s what the new film’s screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith has pledged:

Most-Clicked Pics Today:


Warner Bros. scores a win in ongoing Superman lawsuit

<!– no comments –>

IMAGE: “Action Comics,” DC, 1938.

For almost as long as DC Comics has been raking in money with the world’s most iconic superhero, the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and their heirs have been fighting for the proper credit and compensation. While Warner Bros., the parent company of DC, is still set to lose some of the copyrights of the character and concept in 2013, a recent judicial ruling allows the company’s lawyers to move ahead with a lawsuit against Marc Toberoff, the lawyer representing Siegel and Shuster’s heirs.

Deadline broke the news, explaining that while the ruling doesn’t actually settle anything in regards to who owns what aspects of the character and the Superman mythos, it could make proceedings decidedly more difficult for Toberoff and his clients. Toberoff is a well-known intellectual property lawyer, and has previously worked with the estate of Jack Kirby in similar lawsuits against Marvel Entertainment. He has an impressive record of standing up to gigantic media companies, so Warner Bros. has been searching for any way to get him out of the picture.

The root of Warner Bros. lawsuit lies in the fact that Toberoff allegedly went into business for himself, setting up arrangements between his company, Pacific Pictures, and Siegel and Shuster’s heirs. Part of the arrangements even included the Shusters signing Pacific Pictures agreements, “which purport to assign Toberoff the same rights the Shusters had already assured DC.”

So what does this mean about the future of your favorite Superman comic books and the new “Man of Steel” movie? Honestly, not a whole lot right this second. What we’re seeing here are preliminary legal maneuverings, with both sides jockeying for leverage over the other. Even if some of the Superman rights reverted back to the character’s original creators in 2013, it would still be highly, highly unlikely that Superman would cease to exist or fly away to another publisher.

The reason behind this is that neither Warner Bros. nor the Siegels and Shusters would have complete, usable rights to the character, just small individual pieces and shared rights to other parts of the concept. While it would mean negotiating a hefty new licensing deal with Siegel and Shuster’s heirs, it would be completely possible for DC to stay the course with their flagship character, especially since the Siegels and Shusters wouldn’t have the ability to really go anywhere else with Superman.

What do you think about this increasingly complex issue of copyrights, trademarks and intellectual property? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.


<!– no comments –>



Behold the Check DC Comics Wrote in 1938 for the Exclusive Rights to Superman

An astonishing artifact from the beginnings of American comics history was unearthed this week, the check written by DC Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for the exclusive rights to their then-new character, Superman. The young comic book creators sold Superman to the publisher for a mere $130 (split between the two of them). Their character would of course go on to inspire an entire genre of superhero fiction across all mediums and generate millions upon millions of dollars in sales of comic books, movie tickets and other countless forms of merchandise.

This hugely important document was released into the world Monday morning by The Infinite Horizon writer Gerry Duggan in the form of a digital image via Twitter, where it went viral among comics industry users. Among them was Invincible Iron Man and Casanova writer Matt Fraction, who observed that Detective Comics Publisher Jack Liebowitz, who signed the check, misspelled both of Siegel and Shuster’s names. The careless error was among the first of many indignities the pair would suffer in their dealings with Liebowitz, DC Comics and later-DC parent Time Warner, the corporation whom Siegel’s heirs continue to battle in copyright court even now.

The check was obtained by Stephen Fishler of Comics Connect and Metropolis Comics, companies specializing in rare comics collectibles. The check will be made available for auction in November along with other items once owned by Jerry Siegel. Fishler issued Bleeding Cool a statement discussing the provenance of the check and the various amounts and stamps that appear on it:

This March 1, 1938 Detective Comics check, signed by Jack Liebowitz is made payable to Jerome Seigel and Joe Schuster. (You would think that the payment for a character as important as Superman, DC would have spelled Siegel and Shuster’s name correctly!) The check, in the amount of $412, includes an accounting of the items being paid for. At the very top is “Superman $130,” Next is the payment for the June 1938 Detective Comics at $210. Following that are payments of $36 each for Adventure Comics and More Fun. It would also appear that DC Comics used this check as evidence in their 1939 lawsuit against Victor Fox, given the fact that the evidence stamp from this case is clearly visible on the reverse of the check, as are the actual endorsement signatures of Siegel and Shuster themselves.

The 1939 lawsuit to which Fishler refers is that of Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc., in which DC successfully argued that a competing publisher’s character called Wonder Man infringed upon the Superman copyright. The case is regarded as the first comic book copyright lawsuit, making Siegel and Shuster’s check that much more significant a piece of American comics history.

Additionally, Fischler observed that the date of the check, March 1, 1938, is also the date atop the original contract between Siegel, Shuster and DC that transfered ownership of the Superman character to the publisher in exchange for $130.

(Image via Jeff Trexler)

In the years subsequent to signing the above contract and cashing the above check, Siegel and Shuster would attempt to regain via the courts some kind of ownership of Superman and a more equitable share in the enormous profits generated by Superman comic books as well as DC’s exploitation of the character in the broader marketplace. The pair were at first unsuccessful and found themselves fired, unrecognized for their creation and consequently destitute (Shuster is alleged in comics historian Craig Yoe’s book, Secret Identity, to have illustrated a series of underground fetish comics just to make ends meet). Additional lawsuits, settlements and copyright extensions followed in the decades hence. Those proceedings have been protracted and sometimes arcane, but Siegel and Shuster’s names were eventually restored to the credits pages of all Superman comics, and Siegel’s heirs were ultimately successful (pending appeal) in recapturing half of the copyright to Superman in 2008.

As we saw in July when a New York federal judge decided the heirs of Jack Kirby — the creator and co-creator of such enduring Marvel Comics superheroes like the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Hulk and more — had no legal claim to the copyrights to those characters, comic book readers continue to debate the validity of a creator’s estate pursuing monies or other rewards or damages for work created under the strict work-for-hire conditions that were once commonplace in the industry. A deal is a deal, say some readers and pundits, while others claim there’s a moral imperative to paying such creators’ heirs a substantial settlement.

Whatever one thinks of the cold legal mechanics behind the saga of Superman’s ownership, one cannot escape the sense of calamity and dread that comes with just laying eyes upon Liebowitz’s faded 73-year-old check. The name of the world’s greatest superhero and one of the most lucrative fictional characters ever devised is scribbled so plainly in the memo next to an amount that reads “$130,” like a check you or I might write to pay our utility bills. In an industry where fictional heroes like Superman are regularly talked about as if they’re godlike beings manifested from humanity’s collective consciousness or something similarly grandiose and fanciful, this cold, stark document, with all that we know about Siegel and Shuster’s lives imbued within it, is something almost too real to bear.



wp4_1024x768 01 02_poster sup2 gflois2 ironons_set2_8 pic-2 super_1024_3 super_1024_8 shield superman-symbol Superman

Popular Posts