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It was a contentious week in the world of fanboy entertainment. Here are the top five stories…
5) Spidey Swings Again
Things started off amazing when Sony, outplaying all the companies that spent $3.5 million/30 seconds to show trailers for their upcoming movies on Super Bowl Sunday, created a worldwide event with the debut of its trailer and sizzle reel for its summer release The Amazing Spider-Man. And the best part? Spider-Man looks spectacular.
4) Sturm’s Storm
In the wake of The Avengers Super Bowl trailer, acclaimed indie artist and Eisner-winner James Sturm wrote an essay on Slate saying he was boycotting the comic book movie because of the way Marvel had treated Jack Kirby (and his heirs), who helped create many of the heroes. (The Kirby lawsuits and counter-lawsuits have been well-documented.) This set off a debate about the legality of work-for-hire contracts, ethics and Kirby’s place in comics, among others.
Sturm wrote a Fantastic Four mini-series in 2003 for Marvel, which won him his Eisner, and it’s unclear why he decided to attack the company now. After all, it’s not like the Kirby battles are new, nor are movies based on Marvel characters.
3) Art Imitates Life
The New Yorker published a rare short story from Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Titled Citizen Conn, it’s a story about a falling-out between a comic book-creating duo. Yes, the echoes of Kirby and Stan Lee are undeniable, though the characters are alive in their own right.
The exciting news is that it’s a comic book-themed story from a master writer. The eeriness is that it was coming out as the real poop hit the fan…
2) The Walking Wounded
Years ago, artist Tony Moore and writer Robert Kirkman were best friends in high school. They created comic books such as Battle Pope. Then came The Walking Dead, which Kirkman wrote (and still writes) and which Moore did the art for the first six issues and the covers for the first 18.
On Thursday, Moore filed a lawsuit claiming that his best friend duped him into signing away his rights to the franchise, which has become extremely lucrative in the intervening years, not only becoming best-selling trade paperback (big bucks there) but also the highest-rated series on basic cable.
Kirkman fired back on Friday, calling the suit ridiculous and saying Moore “is violating the same contract he initiated and approved and he wants to misrepresent the fees he was paid and continues to be paid for the work he was hired to do.”
“With all of the stories about creators getting shafted and conned out of their creations by Marvel or DC, to have something similar happen here… I don’t care who is at fault, the fact that it’s come to this, is just sad,” said one commentator on Comic Book Resources. “Isn’t it enough “those corporate suits” exploit comic-book creators already? To have creators themselves come to blows like this…sigh.”
1) Ghost Writer
Speaking of “corporate suits,” the biggest hoopla may reside with Gary Friedrich, the man who wrote the Ghost Rider comics in the 1970s, which introduced the flame-skulled, motorcycle-driving anti-hero that is the basis of a second film from Sony opening on February 17.
Friedrich claims to be the creator of the character and sued Marvel. He lost, but the biggest shock is that Marvel is demanding he not only stop saying he is the character’s creator, but that he pay $17,000 for all the years he spent at comic conventions selling sketches and posters.
Observers now are furiously debating how this dispute will affect all the artists trying to make a living at conventions drawing and selling sketches and prints, a practice that goes back decades and has been tacitly allowed by the comic companies.
Some are focusing on the David vs. Goliath battle itself, accusing Marvel and Disney of picking on a penniless senior citizen struggling with alcohol addiction. Others are saying “he signed a contract, he’s an adult.”
Creators immediately went on the defensive, with 30 Days of Night co-creator Steve Niles starting a page to help the ailing Friedrich out. Joe Hill, Ron Marz, and Dan Jurgens were among those that quickly jumped in, while Marvel writer Mark Waid tweeted “This isn’t as black-and-white a situation as it may seem but still, if you can, donate.”
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