The character rights to Superman have been in dispute for some time now. The court case between Warner Brothers and the Siegel and Shuster families has raged for quite some time. An original deal was made with the Shuster family and Warner Brothers in the early nineties that would allow payments throughout their lifetime for the use of Superman. A similar deal was supposedly reached with the Siegels in the early 2000s as well. Those deals notwithstanding, both families have been embroiled in legal battles with Warner Brothers over ownership rights. Close to a year ago the Siegel family lost their final appeal and this week the same court that shut down that case ruled against the Shusters as well, securing all rights to Superman and any characters derived from his use for Warner Brothers.
With talks of copyright extension in the news it is interesting to take a look at this case and see how different and yet the same things are within the comic book industry when it comes to the handling of work for hire. DC Comics does have a fairly decent track record as of late. Talks of royalty checks showing up in Chuck Dixon’s mailbox when The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters for his contributions to creating Bane got a lot of press. Apparently DC has no incentive to do this, but did so for reasons nobody can truly fathom. Creator rights seem to be a very broad spectrum from case to case. I think everyone is quite aware of how Marvel treated Jack Kirby and Joe Simon regarding their contributions to the Marvel universe.
Most people who do work for hire understand the ramifications of that. Look at Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and their reactions to the Jim Gordon TV show announcement and the use of The Winter Soldier. They know that Marvel is well within their rights to use those characters and ideas because that was in the terms of their contract with the company. Most creators are realistic when it comes to how their work-for-hire output is utilized and what expectations they should have regarding compensation. Siegel and Shuster were in a very different boat when they made their deal with DC comics in the early twentieth century. They tried to secure a fair shake for their involvement when they were alive and their family continued that fight after their deaths.
The world of copyright and creator rights is an ever shifting landscape. The comics industry should certainly treat their creators with more respect. The people in charge would not have these characters without the creative types doing their job. Royalties for new creations shouldn’t be such a stumbling block. I don’t work for any of the major companies so I don’t want to overstep my bounds. But I don’t think I’m going out on too far of a limb to say that I support creators and creator rights and think that its not bad business to support the people who keep your enterprise alive.
I have been more than a little harsh towards DC lately. I feel like they just don’t know how to communicate with their audience in a way that doesn’t come off as condescending anymore. Their PR campaigns and their outreach to the folks that buy, read, and love their books leave a lot to be desired. The publicity for Superman/Wonder Woman for example, just seemed off message from the get-go, as if DC didn’t understand what audience they were reaching to with this one. DiDio’s comparison of trying to appeal to the Twilight audience angered many of DC’s loyal fans, a great example of how out of touch the company is with most of its publications. I think that the books should speak for themselves in most cases, but part of the publishing game is talking up your product and that is one of DC’s recent failings. They just aren’t very good at being their own hype-man.
This is unfortunate considering that Superman/Wonder Woman is a surprisingly well-written, beautifully drawn book. I did not have high hopes for the first issue because the DC hype machine made me feel that I wasn’t in the target audience and that the writing would likely not be in line with what the characters are experiencing in their own titles. I am happy to say that I was proven wrong. Writer Charles Soule, who has been making a name for himself in recent months, gives Diana and Clark some real depth here. Obviously the crux of the story is their relationship, and he uses that coupling as an excuse to better explore the character traits of each of the heroes as individuals. Like a mathmatic equation, we get to see the individual parts that comprise the eventual answer that is their relationship. It isn’t melodrama in the way I was expecting. I am quite impressed with how well everything gels together. The bouncing back and forth between Clark and Diana in their civilian lives and in the midst of a crisis gives the reader varied perspectives that also make the narrative flow smoothly.
Let me also state for the record that this is probably Tony Daniel’s finest work. His pencils are clean and strong with the ink and color work making every panel pop in a way that I haven’t seen from his artwork thus far. I may have been dismissive of him at times, which I now regret because if this is his A-game it is easy to see why he has become a top-tier artist.
Simply put, this is a major home run for DC. One they desperately needed.
What is here is an announcement that artist Chris Sprouse saw the writing on the wall and extricated himself from the situation before the shitstorm became a hurricane,
“It took a lot of thought to come to this conclusion, but I’ve decided to step back as the artist on this story,” Sprouse said in a statement released Tuesday. “The media surrounding this story reached the point where it took away from the actual work, and that’s something I wasn’t comfortable with. My relationship with DC Comics remains as strong as ever and I look forward to my next project with them.”
Due to the creative change, the Card story will not appear in the first collected issue out May 29. Instead, it will feature a story by writer Jeff Parker and artist Chris Samnee, as well as a tale by Jeff Lemire and one by writer Justin Jordan and artist Riley Rossmo.
DC is also looking for a replacement illustrator for Card’s story.
“We fully support, understand and respect Chris’s decision to step back from his Adventures of Superman assignment,” the company said in a statement. “Chris is a hugely talented artist, and we’re excited to work with him on his next DC Comics project. In the meantime, we will re-solicit the story at a later date when a new artist is hired.”
I do believe that DC comics had the right to hire Card for this project. I don’t think they are beholden to the public to remove him because a section of the population doesn’t agree with the personal views of the artist. In fact, I think they should be forced to deal with the repercussions of hiring someone like Card. This is already a PR nightmare for DC. They are feeling it. There is no way that they can come off looking good because of this little fiasco. They made an error in judgment hiring Orson Scott Card to write this story. They banked on name recognition to boost sales. They seemingly did not imagine that name recognition works both ways. I think they reckoned that the controversy would not be so large that the readership wouldn’t meet a respectable quota for the title. I’m sure they expected folks to pick up the book in speculation, wondering if Card might do something off-kilter that would get people talking about Superman and, by proxy, DC as a company. This is indicative of so much of why I am all but done reading DC books. I read Batman out of habit. The same way I instinctively brush my teeth in the morning. It is part of a routine. But DC has for the last few years made mistakes that have alienated me in a way that makes me weary of taking a risk on new titles they publish and getting invested in their products. There is no sense of cohesion to DC’s publishing strategy and the way they handle the reactions of their readership to their nonsensical decisions is just the icing on the cake.
Chris Sprouse leaving the title makes sense. He knows it isn’t a good move for him to be associated with this project. As a result, Card’s story is without an artist and thus won’t be in the issue when it goes to print. Will people support the title now that Card is temporarily gone? I don’t know for sure. Let’s say they do. Does DC take note that numbers went up after the announcement of Card’s absence? I’ll say no, because they really won’t have any way to compare until an issue with Card’s involvement hits the stands and they see the difference in sales. The book is going to be a lightning rod any way you look at it. In short, DC is going to be dealing with this for a while.
What am I trying to say with all this? I’m saying that DC has the right to hire someone like Card. They also should have the good sense not to. This isn’t a plea to get rid of Card on my part, more of a plea for the people at DC to make better decisions. All across the board. Have they scored a PR win AT ALL since the first launch day of the New 52? All we’ve heard about is artist discontent, shuffling creative teams, sales slipping down the charts, the furor over the Gail Simone fiasco and now this debacle. When was the last time Marvel had to deal with this sort of bad press? I honestly can’t remember. I don’t want to start an argument about DC vs. Marvel in terms of editorial decisions, because that would be an article too frustrating to write. What I do want to do is put the idea out there that DC can, could, and should be better than all of this.
Be better DC. Be better.
According to reports from the L.A. Times, Oscar nominated actress/certifiable beauty Amy Adams has been cast as Lois Lane opposite Henry Cavill in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman film. This is such a step up from Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns that it almost defies the ability to write a coherant blog post about it. The fact of the matter is that no matter what you think of Snyder as a director, and the internet has been a veritable mosh pit of differing opinions following the opening of Sucker Punch, the pedigree of the cast is nothing less than stellar with Cavill, whose work in The Tudors is quite good, and previously reported Kevin Costner as Pa Kent and now Amy Adams on board as well. If by some miracle we get Viggo Mortenson on board as well, which has been speculated with rampant fury as of late, we may see the most well assembled Superman production of our time.
Just about every Superman iteration thus far has had something that worked well for it. Christopher Reeve was superb as the Man of Steel. In the 90’s, Teri Hatcher was a fabulous Lois Lane and the chemistry between her and Dean Cain was what kept that show afloat. Smallville has its moments, most of which revolve around Michael Rosenbaum, Allison Mack, John Glover, and, in a pinch, Erica Durance. Snyder’s film has an amazing cast, a treatment from the Nolan’s and the directive from everyone not to be a black hole of awful proportions. We could very well get something worthy of Superman hitting the big screen once again in 2012.
Guys, this week was a killer. Probably the most major comic release date in a while. You have no idea how many people have been coming in asking about Batman Incorporated over the last few weeks. That final panel in Batman & Robin sold people in a way that I can’t really describe and I for one am thrilled that so many people are realizing how awesome Grant Morrison’s take on the Dark Knight truly is. The man knows what he’s doing. In Morrison we trust.
AVENGERS #7 3.99
BATMAN #704 2.99
BATMAN INCORPORATED #1 3.99
BATMAN THE RETURN #1 4.99
DEADPOOLMAX #2 (MR) 3.99
GREEN LANTERN #59 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
OSBORN #1 BIG (OF 4) 3.99
POWER GIRL #18 2.99
SIXTH GUN #6 3.99
SPIDER-GIRL #1 BIG 3.99
SUPERGIRL #58 2.99
SUPERIOR #2 (OF 6) (MR) 2.99
SUPERMAN #705 2.99
THUNDERBOLTS #150 4.99
X-23 #3 2.99
X-MEN #5 3.99
Now after a good long day of writing about prostitution in the middle ages for a history paper, I can tell you about how awesome a few of these books are.
The weakest of the new Batman releases is the core title, which sadly seems like a middle of the road affair by Tony Daniel when compared to the amazing work done by Morrison and Finch in the other books released this week. Not to say that the book is horrible, it’s better than it has been recently, especially Daniel’s art which looks less rushed than I’m used to, but unfortunately the entirety of the book seems rather pedestrian when placed alongside the nearly pitch-perfect Batman Incorporated title. I think my main gripe with this title comes from the fact that it reads like a throwaway title from the late nineties or early two-thousands in it’s pacing, its art, and its choice of villainry.
The book suffers from feeling all too familiar to stories we already read but with minor tweaks. Unfortunately, the books that this seems derivitive of aren’t the best parts of Batman lore. I think that the book could stand to take a few more risks rather than settle into a comfort zone that’s so blatantly par for the course.
Then again, when Tony Daniel takes risks we get Catgirl, a character that I almost want to like out of the sheer absurdity of her existence. But then again, my tastes differ in certain areas from the general public so I won’t take a stand on that character until she’s had the chance to mature under another team of writers.
This book is everything you should want in a Batman title. Morrison manages to find the right balance of tone between the ridiculous, the macabre, the adventurous, and the outright fun. The book essentially turns into a globetrotting Bruce and Selina super-happy-fun action hour where Batman and Catwoman fly to Japan to begin preparations for that branch of the Batman Inc. plan to be put into motion but are sidetracked by a murder mystery and a cult of ninja assassins. There’s even some tentacle rape hentai jokes that seem all too appropriate coming from the mind of Grant Morrison.
The artwork on display here is robust and amazing. They really could not have found a better fit. Paquette’s Selina is as sexy as she’s ever been and the subtle touches he uses to portray Batman are astounding. It’s one of the best looking Batman books in a long time, rivaled only by Finch’s work in The Return which I’ll be discussing shortly.
If you pass on this one you will regret it later. This one is a home run in every sense of the damn word. Buy this book now!
I was wary of this particular title. That apprehension faded after the first few pages where Grant Morrison gives us what equates to graphic poetry, telling the story from the perspective of the bat that crashed into Bruce’s life when he needed to find his avatar. David Finch’s artwork guided the narrative with masterful flow and tone, showing off some of his most brilliantly stylized work to date.
That the art is this good is not surprising, given the subject matter and how much Finch loves to work with shadows and the darkness, but the complexities of the narrative were surprising considering that this is essentially the jumping-on point for new readers and Morrison made no attempt to censor his sensibilities and gave us intricate mysterious plot threads as well as hyper-neo-noir technological action adventure with jetpacks and robotics intertwined with some nitty gritty fight scenes.
If you’re planning on reading any of this week’s bat titles I highly recommend that you start off with this one as it outlines the new status quo for Batman quite handily and works to assure us that the people working on every title are going to be working as a cohesive unit to tell what seems like a hell of a story and if this one-shot is any indication, they’ll be bringing their a-game every step of the way.
From Marvel we get the newly minted 616 version of Spider-Girl, formerly Arana, in her first solo title. The whole Young Allies thing didn’t seem to work out so well so I’m pensive about this title, but hopefully they’ll let it go long enough to deter fans from yelling at them for cancelling what amounts to their only major female-driven solo title. (Scarlet doesn’t count, guys.)
It’s off to a good start. Establishing the cast of characters and letting the new readers get to know Arana in case they haven’t followed her from her humble beginnings in the revamped Amazing Fantasy from a few years back. The storytelling style is sound and concise, but from someone like Tobin who has a pretty firm grasp on narrative technique this isn’t really a surprise. The plotline seems familiar, as most superhero books are bound to borrow from each other a bit, but the expression, through a “twitter”-esque thought balloon parade seems fresh enough to distinguish it from other similar go-arounds.
I’m hoping it will stick around long enough to take off, because the character really is an interesting one. I especially liked her when she was in Ms. Marvel, another title that I sorely miss.
And now I go back to writing about whores. I guess this is what Frank Miller feels like all the time. A-ZING!!!!
According to the official DCU newsblog, JMS will be taking his leave from the Superman and Wonder Woman monthly titles citing a need to prioritize the release of the next Earth One graphic novel as well as his recent healthy issues as the reasons for his early departure. Those concerned about whether or not the current storylines will be left dangling will be happy to hear that oncoming Superman writer Chris Roberson (of iZombie and Cinderella fame) as well as new Wonder Woman scribe Phil Hester will both be working off of Stracynski’s plot outlines. Those of you hoping that the storylines would be abandoned are out of luck. I would argue that the premeses behind the current direction of both books were sound and interesting, simply not being taken in the right direction due to Stracynski’s understanding of the characters being deeply flawed.
I’m sure some overzealous fanboys will be quick to theorize that this has something to do with the critical reaction to the series but the truth is JMS got mainstream exposure for the title, so whether or not the faithful drank his kool-aid was not a concern of the people publishing the books. He isn’t being forced off because of his failures, if anything it seems like they want to replicate the amazing success of Earth One as soon as possible considering the buzz on the first installment seems to be mostly positive.
The thing to take away from this is that both new writers for Superman and Wonder Woman are ASTOUNDING talents who I personally cannot wait to see tackle the characters. Especially Phil Hester. I have a sketch of Green Arrow he drew for me hanging framed in my office. He’s awesome. You should share my enthusiasm. I have enough to go around.