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Looks like more compassionate—not to mention media-savvy—heads have prevails at DC Entertainment, as they have reversed a lawyer’s decision to disallow a memorial to a boy who died of abuse to have the iconic Kryptonian S on it after all:
“DC Entertainment uses a flexible set of criteria when we receive worthy requests such as this, and at times have reconsidered our initial stance,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“After verifying the support of appropriate family members, DC Entertainment will be allowing the Jeffrey Baldwin Memorial Statue to feature the Superman ‘S’ shield.”
The kerfuffle began earlier in the week, when a Toronto man revealed that he had commissioned a memorial statue to Jeffrey Baldwin, a young boy who died of starvation nearly a decade ago. In Baldwin’s brief life, he loved Superman, and the statue paid tribute to that.
A DC lawyer didn’t agree at the time, igniting a public debate over copyright, trademark and everything in between.
Our own Jeff Trexler weighed in with sound legal principles earlier today, but as many have stated, all DC had to do to get past any legal issues was license the statue for $1 — US or Canadian.
It looks like saner heads have prevailed and realized that assigning the heroic humanist values of Superman to this child’s tragic life and horrific death will help others aspire to more heroic ideals.
We’re sure you recall the saga of Georgia man Ed Kramer, the co-founder of Dragon*Con, who last December was finally consisted of child molestation after 10 years of legal wrangling. The plea bargained verdict pleased few, as jailhouse lawyer Kramer used his physical infirmities to get house arrest instead of the jail time he so richly deserved following years of accusations of improper relationships with young boys. Perhaps frustrated, the DA vowed:
“I believe he’ll violate his probation and we’ll have him in prison eventually,” said Porter, who has been on the Kramer case since 2005. “I think he’ll most likely try and figure out a way to come in contact with children, and that’s where I’ll get him.”
Well, I don’t know if Twitter counts as contact but if so, Kramer could be on his way. He’s reappeared on Twitter as @edwardekramer
, now billed as
Edward E. Kramer is an American Editor, Writer, Producer, Screenwriter, Agent, SFWA, WGA. Photographer and Photojournalist.
AND CONVICTED CHILD MOLESTER. Fixed it for ya.
For his profile pic, Kramer has managed to comb his hair and beard so he looks less like the star of Furry Human Centipede, and more like
the kind of person who won’t make you throw up in your mouth when you look at him a responsible member of society. But it doesn’t stop there. On his twitter profile, Kramer claims to be located in Brooklyn, NY, which WOULD be a clear violation of house arrest if I’m not mistaken. A search at his website also reveals a stunning new bio:
An award-winning editor and writer, Edward E. Kramer’s published works includes Sandmanwith Neil Gaiman, Elric with Michael Moorcock, and The Crow with James O’Barr; he received the Prometheus Award for the Libertarian SF anthology Free Space, with Brad Linaweaver. Ed agented volumes of classic work for Harlan Ellison (Edgeworks), Fritz Leiber (Lankhmar), and Michael Moorcock (Eternal Champion). Ed arranged the literary partnership between authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson which re-launched the Dune universe; the first Herbert / Anderson collaborative trilogy was dedicated to Ed’s efforts.
As a photojournalist and music critic, Ed’s features were syndicated through the NY Times regional wire; his photography and portraits graced the pages of Billboard, Rolling Stone, Time, and USA Today. Ed’s original fiction appears in numerous anthologies, collections, and magazines. In 1987, Ed founded America’s largest annual pop-cultural event, Dragon Con, and served as Chairman for fourteen years. An active member of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) for more than two decades, and a past Nebula Awards host, Ed also served as Vice-President and Trustee of the Horror Writers Association (HWA).
A graduate of Emory University School of Medicine, Ed’s work in Violence Epidemiology with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) helped develop the technology to decrease fatalities through a pilot study for Atlanta’s Domestic Crisis Intervention Unit (DCIU). His experience includes more than two decades of work as an administrator in the psychiatric and addiction treatment professions, and eight years as Producer of the Tovia Singer Show for Arutz Sheva, Israel’s only independent national live radio station.
As if writing Sandman, Elric and The Crow wasn’t enough—what did we EVER do without him?—Kramer’s twitter feed appears to be setting himself up as some kind of psychological counselor, as his interests and activities reveal:
Futurism and Emerging Technologies, Editing and Publishing, Writing and Screenwriting, Forensic Psychology and Cognitive Processing, Photography and Cinematography, Disability and Human Rights Advocacy, Chabad Lubavitch and Spiritual Enrichment, Lurianic and Quantum Studies, Kiruv and Counter-Missionary Education
IF you want to add “having sex with underage minors” to that list, I won’t blame you.
And here’s the most disturbing kicker of all. I’d actually heard about this from several friends, and then saw an alert on FB, but Kramer is especially targeting mothers of disabled children on Twitter. He’s also followed several children’s aid organization, including Sanctuary for Kids. If you think he’s doing this to find weak people to victimize, under the guise of helping the children, well, that’s how molesters operate.
Will all this be enough to get Kramer’s probation violated? I sincerely hope so. One of the reasons monsters like Kramer find new victims is their insidious and ingenious ways of manipulating the very rules meant to prevent such behavior.
To be fair, some of Kramer’s tweeted links are pretty interesting. But just in case any moms or dads out there are googling, I’ll spell it out for ya:
@edwardekramer is a convicted child molester.
Got it? Good! If @edwardekramer is following you on twitter, get to a safe place immediately.
This may make you cry.
Jeffrey Baldwin is a Toronto child who died of starvation in 2002 after severe abuse at the hands of his grandparents. The grandparents were convicted child abusers but Jeffrey and several siblings were still handed into their care by a children’s “aid” organization. He and a sister were locked in a room and forced to live in their own filth. And worse. In happier days, the boy was a Superman fan who was even photographed wearing the classic uniform.
A Toronto man was so moved by this story—revealed in a long delayed inquest into the death earlier this year—that he comissioned a statue of Jeffrey wearing a Superman uniform.
However, when he asked for permission from DC to include the Superman logo, it was denied.
DC’s senior vice-president of business and legal affairs, Amy Genkins, told Boyce in an email that “for a variety of legal reasons, we are not able to accede to the request, nor many other incredibly worthy projects that come to our attention.”
DC did not immediately return a request for comment.
For Boyce, it was a huge blow, as he felt the Superman aspect was a crucial part of the bronze monument, which will include a bench. The coroner’s inquest heard from Jeffrey’s father that his son loved to dress up as Superman.
Okay I get it. Legal reasons. It’s still kind of sad.
“I’m sort of empathetic to (DC’s) point of view on this, but I feel very strongly that the image of Jeffrey is so powerful,” said Boyce. “It’s the image of a vulnerable boy dressed up as the most invulnerable character in the universe. So I just feel like there’s something lost if we change it.”
Boyce said he was empathetic to DC’s stance because he felt they did not want the Superman character associated with child abuse.
I get that too. But still sad. Superheroes are aspirational character who help get kids through trauma as larger than life figures with larger than life heroism.
Boyce is going to have the “S” on the statue changed to a “J” for Jeffrey.
The close-knit LA animation community has been rocked this week by trouble at Cartoon Network’s show Clarence, where creator and show runner Skyler Page has been removed from his duties following an assault on an Adventure Time staffer and what friends are calling a mental breakdown.
The public uproar began earlier in the week when Adventure Time storyboard revisionist Emily Partridge posted some oblique tweets about mental illness not excusing bad behavior. Then illustrator Maré Odomo posted this on Monday:
This created a lot of hubbub. Soon after, Partridge confirmed that she was the victim:
This was supported by many others in the industry, including Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward, Ryan Pequin, and Steven Universe (and cartoonist) Lamar Abrams who wrote:
As this escalated on Twitter, Partridge confirmed that Cartoon Network was aware of the situation and was dealing with it. Matters became far more public yesterday when Cartoon Brew wrote a story that confirmed that Page had been removed as showrunner from Clarence. While his behavior against Partridge was the last straw, it seems that he had been acting very erratically due to mental health issues for a long time, with reports he had been hospitalized earlier in the year for the same issues. A friend of his named Jeff Rowe has written much more about Page’s mental state:
Skyler is currently in the hospital receiving treatment for mental illness. Specifically a form of Bipolar 1 that results in prolonged psychotic episodes, not sleeping for days, and erratic, sometimes frightening behavior that mimics schizophrenia. On the same day the assault happened, Skyler also walked through the streets shirtless screaming at cops. I saw him try to smoke cigarettes through his nose and drink days old olive juice. He popped in and out of different characters, and answered questions with riddles. And the next day, when me and another close friend drove him to the hospital to get him treatment, I sat with him for hours in the Emergency Room as he sat strapped to a bed singing They Might Be Giants songs and talking like a cowboy. I don’t know if he was cognizant enough to see that I was crying. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen. Here in front of me, was a guy I had known extremely well, but was obviously “not home”. When I talked to the doctor and learned more about his specific illness, and that he would be coping with it for the rest of his life, it broke my heart. Again, here was someone who was like a brother to me, and I just got told he may never be the same again.
And Emily Quinn, another Adventure Time staffer has confirmed all this
As someone who has dealt with mental illness both in myself and with members of my family, and as someone who has been watching Skyler continuously dig himself into a hole, I’m glad this is being talked about. I know people will be upset, but the goal of this is not to be stigmatizing for other people with mental illnesses. There are thousands of people with mental illnesses who would never hurt a fly. However, just like you can’t generalize that EVERYONE with a mental illness assaults other people (sexually or otherwise), you also can’t generalize that everyone with mental illnesses do not. Some people do shitty things regardless of a mental illness.
I’m not using his illness as an excuse, I’m not minimizing his actions in any way shape or form. It’s still a despicable thing that Skyler did (both this time and times before). However, people need to know what else has been going on. Skyler was put in a position of having his own show, let the power go to his head, and was completely unable to emotionally handle the pressure. He has had episode after episode, and the studio did not know how to handle it. They eventually took him off most creative aspects of the show, but not entirely. The first time he was hospitalized, hardly anything was changed when he came back. They just assumed that since he was out of the hospital, that it meant he was “cured.” I was LIVID. No mental illness magically gets “cured.” But because there is such a stigma around mental disorders, nobody higher up knew how to deal with it. That’s a problem.
While this kind of thing—a showrunner falling to mental breakdown—is unusual, it isn’t the first time it has happened. Hwoever, it is probably the first time that this kind of scenario has played out in the extremely close knit and PUBLIC forum of Twitter and Tumblr used by artists and animators in this age group. While Cartoon Brew used the word “exclusive” the while thing had been playing out on both those platforms for days before Page’s ouster was reported on. The extremely frank tumblr posts are another thing you would not have seen in past scandals.
For the moment, it seems as if the attack on Partridge has been dealt with in the only way they could at Cartoon Network. And she seems to have a powerful and supportive network of friends to prevent her being ostracized for what was clearly not her problem. Let’s ope it stays that way. N the meantime, here’s some artwork by the very talented Partridge via her Tumblr.
The family of Jack Kirby’s quest to regain some rights to the Marvel characters still has a chance to go all the way to the Supreme court, as THR’s sturdy legal expert Eriq Gardner reports. Gardner quotes some amicus (friend of the court, i.e. supporting document) briefs by experts as weighing in favor of it being heard:
It was authored by Bruce Lehman, former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the chief advisor to President Bill Clinton on intellectual property matters. He writes on behalf of himself, former U.S. register of copyrights Ralph Oman (who served as chief minority counsel of the Senate’s IP subcommittee during the consideration of the 1976 Copyright Act), the Artists Rights Society (whose past members included Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso), the International Intellectual Property Institute and others.
But before getting into what’s said in this brief (provided below), we’ll turn to another amici curiae brief (also below) that offers a better set-up to what exactly is disputed. This one comes from Mark Evanier, a comic book historian who once apprenticed for Kirby and has been an advisor to Marvel, DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics. He joins John Morrow, another Kirby historian, as well as the PEN Center USA, one of the most prestigious organizations of novelists, poets, playwrights and screenwriters.
Although the Kirby case has gotten much further along in its journey to the Supremes than most of us ever thought, observers still pint out that it has one element that makes it being heard unlikely: a lack of division among lower court rulings. Marvel/Disney has won at every level of the court system. And the business-friendly current make-up of the Supreme Court makes a Kirby victory kind of unlikely, no matter how many heavy hitters weigh in on the amicus briefs.
That said, Kirby was always an underdog. And the fact that the underlying elements of the case—the meaning of the ‘instance and expense’ test to prove whether work was work for hire/on staff or independent—have been prominent enough that the court has actually ASKED for brief is telling as well.
Looks like this is going to go all the way down to the wire.
Just one more little bad news for Denver Comic Con — it seems two of the dealers, Mindy and Zac Skellington Conley of Hall of Justice Comic Art Gallery, were unloading the car after the show and had the proceeds stolen. About $1000 in cash was removed from the unlocked car, leaving them freeting about things like paying the rent. “I just kind of want my stuff back so I can at least pay for my bills and things that I need. I don’t really want to file charges on anybody,” Conleytold the local TV station.
In local fashion, area cartoonist Drew Litton has urged community members to buy some artwork from the gallery to help make up the gap.
The moral of the story? Take the money out of the car FIRST. Even if it is Sunday night in a nice part of Denver.
[Photo via MIndy Conley.]
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Clickhole, the Onion’s answer to Buzzfeed and Clickhole, has posted an audacious NSFW video parody, “If You Grew Up With ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ You Need to Watch This Now.” Spoilers below for those of you who
aren’t already in custody haven’t seen it yet:
Clickhole’s video of Calvin and Hobbes having sex pretty much nukes anything an art critic has ever described as transgressive, but in so doing it also raises a serious legal concern. As you may recall, under 18 U.S. Code Sec. 1466A, U.S. law banning child pornography is not limited to visual depictions of real children. This has already led to prosecutions for possession of comics or cartoons – in fact, animated child sex is reportedly being used as, well, clickbait by law enforcement.
Could watching the Clickhole Calvin and Hobbes video get you sent to jail?
Let’s go exploring!
One key aspect of current U.S. law — setting aside other countries that may have more expansive prohibitions – is that it reflects an adaptive response to the Supreme Court’s conclusion that earlier versions were too broad in ways that violated the First Amendment. As a result Section 1466A only bans non-realistic visual depictions such as the Calvin and Hobbes video if they are obscene or lack serious artistic, literary, political or scientific value.
Here, in brief, is why Congress went with that language. In a series of decisions several decades ago, the Supreme Court came up with a standard for obscenity that, it believes, passes constitutional muster. The standard is known as the Miller test for determining obscenity, and it has three key components: the material appeals to prurient interest, is patently offensive and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. By echoing this language, Congress hoped – and so far has mostly succeeded – in establishing a standard for visual depictions of minors in drawings, cartoons, sculptures or paintings that would survive a constitutional challenge.
1466A(a)(2) and (b)(2) ban, among other things, graphic images of a minor engaging in actual or simulated bestiality that lack serious artistic, literary, political or scientific value. Before we get to the question of value, it’s worth noting that the statute goes on to define “graphic” to refer to images in which “a viewer can observe any part of the genitals or pubic area of any depicted person or animal.” In essence, these sections take a shortcut past the prurient and patently offensive elements of the obscenity test, which are determined by community standards, by providing an absolute bright-line standard.
Watch the Clickhole Calvin and Hobbes video carefully and you’ll see that it arguably does not portray the genitals or pubic area of either character – the very sort of thing that a strategic company lawyer might tell a company producing such a video to do if it was determined to post it. That’s not a slam-dunk conclusion, though. Calvin is drawn in a way that resembles the iconic “Love Is …” one-panel cartoon, the product of a time before contemporary anti-child-porn laws as well as a strip that does not depict minors in sexual situations, at least in authorized versions.
Section 1466A(a)(1) and (b)(1) are somewhat more expansive. These provisions prohibit an obscene depiction of sexually explicit conduct, which extends to simulated bestiality and other sexual activity whether or not the genitals or pubic area appear.
What makes determining whether material is obscene particularly hard to determine is that the test looks to community standards – technically in regard to determining whether material appeals to the prurient interest or is patently offensive, but the community sensibility also tends to come into play in assessing whether a reasonable person would find that the material lacks socially redeeming value. This applies not only to a federal statute such as Section 1466A, but any state anti-obscenity or anti-child pornography laws under which the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon could be assessed.
This reliance on community standards has had the effect of balkanizing U.S. obscenity law. What is obscene in one jurisdiction can be perfectly legal in another. Case in point: the Christopher Handley case, which involved a manga collector. The Iowa district judge in that case concluded that 1466(a)(2) and (b)(2) are unconstitutional, but the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, expressly disagreed.
In short, if the science of law is, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, an art of prediction, the current constitutional definition of obscenity is a Magic 8 Ball.
Which also brings us to 18 USC 2252C, a related provision that prohibits knowingly embedding words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent (a) to deceive a person into viewing material constituting obscenity or (b) to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors on the Internet. If one is dealing with a judge or jury likely to conclude that the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon is obscene, there is an equally significant risk of being found guilty of using misleading words (the clickbait headline) and images (the still frame before playing) to trick either an adult or a minor into clicking play.
So to answer the question of whether Clickhole’s Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon is illegal, I’d have to say it depends – on the jurisdiction, on the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the case presented by the defendant’s lawyers. And again, the rest of the world is not bound by our First Amendment jurisprudence and its definition of obscene, so there could be a greater risk elsewhere. There’s a substantial possibility, of course, that nothing will ever happen to Clickhole or any viewers of this video, but it’s not a risk that many lawyers would want their clients to take.
As expected, the district court has ruled that the 2001 settlement agreement between DC and the Siegels is binding and did indeed transfer the Superman copyright to DC. But what about Superboy?This is how the lawsuit ends, not with a bang but a whimper:
The Court GRANTS DC’s motion for summary judgment on DC’s fourth counterclaim and holds that the October 19, 2001 agreement remains enforceable and operated itself to transfer the Siegels Superman rights to DC. This ends this Court’s involvement in the parties’ dispute ….
The ruling itself addresses Toberoff’s arguments for getting around the agreement and finds them wanting. The court agreed that it needed to make sure that the agreement did indeed transfer the rights, but as we discussed in my previous post the court found the matter to have been resolved by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision.
If at times it sounds as if the ruling is a bit passive aggressive about having been boxed in by the interpretations of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, welcome to the real-world politics of the trial & appellate court divide.
The court also concludes that certain arguments were brought years later than they should have, which again is not a surprise. On page 10, we see that DC decided to use the argument that the Siegel side had failed to make a timely affirmative defense pleading, proposed in my previous post, and the judge agreed that it was correct.
The court leaves open the possibility of subsequent state-court breach of contract filings based on disputes over the performance of the settlement, but any such filing would be separate from the Superman copyright litigation now being closed.
After declaring the Superman copyright dispute to be over, the court goes on to ask for briefing on a couple additional issues that one would think have been resolved by the settlement, but the court wants to make absolutely certain before it ends the legal proceedings once and for all. The issues: the Superboy rights and the early Action #1 promotional ads.
One can expect that DC will make try to make quick work of both.
The settlement states that the Siegel family is to “transfer all of its rights in the ‘Superman’ and ‘Spectre’ properties (including ‘Superboy’)’” to DC, and DC will doubtless argue that this means what it says. Moreover, it’s not even clear that the Siegels’ claim to Superboy goes beyond any rights they might have had in it as a derivative work of Superman–in 2007 the district court vacated a previous ruling that gave the Siegels ownership of Superboy as a separate character, indicating that Superboy might instead be merely a derivative work.
As for the promotional ads, the 2008 ruling found that those belong to DC. This is why the judge had to come up with the weird ruling that the ads gave DC only the copyright in a black-and-white strongman–otherwise, the Siegels’ share of Action #1 would have given them far less.
And now, of course, that share is gone.
My condolences to the Siegel and Shuster heirs for what must be a crushing blow. The legal dispute may be all but over, but the work of Jerry, Joanne and Joe on behalf of creators’ rights will always continue to inspire.
Tweet Yesterday’s summary judgment filings confirm that settlement talks have been ongoing–and the Siegel side is in disarray.The motion filed yesterday was as expected as a player trotting to first base after ball 4. When an appeals court sends a case back down saying that the case is all but over but the filing, the [...]
Tweet News reports are circulating that the Siegel and Shuster heirs have asked the lower court to dismiss DC’s copyright lawsuits. What actually happened is rather different. The Siegel and Shuster heirs’ attorney, Marc Toberoff, appears to have conceded that the Superman copyright dispute is over and the heirs have lost. Here’s what happened in [...]
In a troubling case, a Missouri man bas been sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of obscene images of children.
Tweet In 2008, the Siegel family won a historic courtroom victory. So why did they risk it all on an appeal? An encounter between Jerry Siegel’s widow, Joanne, and Super Boys author Brad Ricca provides a telling clue.On his must-read blog covering material connected to his forthcoming Siegel and Shuster biography, Ricca tells the following story as [...]
TweetAmong the many thoughtful questions raised in my discussion with the Superman Homepage earlier this week was whether the Siegel lawsuit prompted changes to Superman’s uniform. This might seem like a small issue, but it reflects serious concerns about freedom and integrity in a corporate context. It wouldn’t be responsible to downplay the importance of corporate attorneys [...]
by Jeff Trexler
You might hear today that the district court judge has handed Toberoff another stunning defeat this week, “a doozy and an outright win for DC.”
It’s actually a win for Toberoff, at least procedurally.
Here’s what happened.
As was widely reported on The Beat and elsewhere, back on October 17, 2012, Judge Wright granted DC partial summary judgment in its action against Toberoff’s Pacific Pictures. In particular, he ruled that the Shuster estate’s termination was invalid, along with subsequent agreements giving Pacific Pictures a substantial percentage of the Superman rights.
That was a momentous ruling–and, as I discussed, not at all unexpected. Toberoff tried to get the judge to vacate it, but to no avail–unlike 2008, this time he didn’t luck out and get a sympathetic new judge.
One would expect that Toberoff’s next step would be to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, there’s a slight hitch in the rules of civil procedure. Because the October order was a partial summary judgment–the court ruled on some but not all of the claims at issue–there was no final judgment in the case for Toberoff to appeal.
Accordingly, in November Toberoff asked the judge to issue a final judgment certifying his October order. This way, as Toberoff correctly noted, he could appeal the October rulings in an expeditious fashion.
This is called a Rule 54(b) motion, for the section of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that allows a court to “direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims … if the court expressly determines that there is not just reason for delay.”
On December 11 the judge granted Toberoff’s request and certified the previous partial summary judgment order as final in accordance with Rule 54(b). Shortly thereafter on that same day, December 11, Toberoff filed his appeal with the Ninth Circuit.
For an indication of just how expected this was, note the date on Toberoff’s 12/11 filing–it was prepared on December 10.
On a side note, the judge didn’t grant Toberoff’s request for a stay of proceedings in regard to the other remaining issues–read the order carefully & you’ll find that the judge, in an interesting display of informality, issued his judgment by signing the alternative draft order prepared by DC’s outside counsel, which left out the grant of a stay.
Of course, more generally the ongoing Siegel and Shuster cases do continue to offer some interesting inside-baseball material for discussion, and if I can break away from other matters before another ruling comes down I’ll offer a few thoughts here at The Beat.
Rule 54(b) Motion and Judgment in the Pacific Pictures – Joe Shuster – Marc Toberoff District Court Case
Some quickies from the mailbag and around:
• Steven Scott has been promoted to Director of Publicity and Marketing at Archie comics. Scott joined the Archie Comics PR team as Publicity and Marketing Coordinator last year following a stint at Marvel. Scott will supervise the company’s publicity outreach, social media and marketing strategy, and he’s already been filling our inbox with newsy notes such as this one. Welcome!
• Actor and Icon George Takei and comics creator Dan Parent will be signing Kevin Keller #6 at Midtown Comics Times Square today from 9:00PM to 11:00PM. You will need a ticket for the signing. The issue involves gay Riverdaler Kevin Keller picking Takei as his idol, and a journey to a local convention to meet up.
• Sue of DCWKA notes that DC ran a preview at the Mary Sue, a progressive attempt at marketing to the female fan market. We join Sue in applauding this move.
• Jazan Wild, aka Jason Barnes likes to sue people over the fact that he once created a comic called Carnival of Souls. A judge has refused to throw out one of the cases , a claim that Melissa Marr’s fantasy novel Carnival of Souls infringes on his trademark. While you can’t trademark a title of a single work, the judge felt that Wild has created a series, which he did. Wild has also sued the TV shoes Heroes and a songwriter that he had a deal gone sour. Wild is so busy suing, how does he find time to make comics?
• While his first marriage was breaking up, legendary Peanuts creator Charles Shulz had an affair with a younger woman, and the drawings he sent her are being auctioned off. Good grief, Daily Mail. It sounds icky, but the drawings are sweet. Can you imagined being romanced with original Peanuts drawings?
• Moonstone Comics has been around for a while, but they publish in fits and starts these days. But they are still around. In April they’ll publish DOMINO LADY/ Sherlock Holmes #1 by Nancy Holder and Reno Maniquis, a DOMINO LADY: Blonde Bombshell collection by the same team plus Danny Sempere and LAI WAN: The Dreamwalker by CJ Henderson and Kieran Yanner. Here’s some covers. Headlights!
Send your news notes to comicsbeat at gmail dot com
So I’ve been on vacation (on and off) for the last two weeks and hadn’t been paying too much attention to the internet—a wonderful activity that I highly recommend every six months or so. On the way home from a wedding I was surprised to learn that the man I call “John V.” seems to have become the focus of concentrated internet outrage for a day or so—and I couldn’t be more thrilled.John V., a message board poster who uses rotating IPs to avoid filters, has been haunting the comment boards of female writers for over two years. A few months ago, for whatever reason, he seems to have started using Twitter as a base for his insults and rape-obsessed ragings. As you can see from the above, about a month ago he made a series of posts aimed at me, Tom Spurgeon, DCWKA’s Sue, Jill Pantozzi and a few others that shocked quite a few people. Although John V. is clearly a misogynist with a deep hatred of women, he also seemed to have a mad on for men of comics like Spurgeon.
At this time we all just ignored him. It was nothing new. I know he’s been hounding Sue for a long time. His Twitter bio read “I eat loudmouthed feminist morons for breakfast. Afterwards I’m full because they are really, really fat.” It was also nothing new for The Beat. I have many of his deleted comments saved up. Here’s a sample:
Heh, linking to dcwomenkickingass. One dumb bitch linking to a dumber bitch. Classic Heidi.
And more recently:
Hey Heidi, guess who’s going to wondercon? Can’t wait to see you there, sugar britches. This is going to be really fun.
While these sexual threats and “I’ll be back!” warnings are the products of what is clearly a disturbed mind, John V’s most annoying trick was posing as someone else—often a woman—and completely derailing otherwise at least semi-intelligent discussions, such as his posing as “Jason in the UK” and arguing
that Faith Erin Hicks
was a welfare slacker despite the plain statement that she had worked at an animation studio. My troll radar wasn’t up and Hicks herself defended herself against this creep, a situation I deeply regret and which I’ve apologized for. Here was his excited “unveiling:”
Well folks, now that things have died down, just wanted to say how much I enjoyed derailing this thread and causing the internet shit storm that I did. My troll powers are as unparalleled as the idiocy and irrelevancy of female comic bloggers. I had only intended on messing with my favorite victim Heidi. What a bonus it was then to get Faith Hicks all butt hurt!
Since then I’ve been very suspicious of new posters engaging in long arguments in the many gender comment threads here…if I’ve gone too far the other way, too bad. One rotten apple and all that….
Frankly, I never bought this up before because John V. was looking for attention and hoping to frighten people and I didn’t want to give him any more attention. But now the cat seems to be out of the bag. Over the last few days he made the mistake of targeting Ron Marz, who got people more up in arms about it; and then Mark Millar saw it and was shocked:
As male pros we maybe live in a little bubble. This might go on more than we realise. But we need to clamp down on this shit fast… ethically, if not because many of these pros are personal friends of ours. Comics has the coolest rep with people now. It's a broad church and much less of a boys club in particular than it was when I was a kid. This kind of thing just gives us a horrible name and we owe it to ourselves as well as the pros concerned to stop it.
According to Millar’s sources, John V. is a 51-year-old married man living in California. And the law has been engaged:
Thank you very much, but I engaged a criminal lawyer in LA yesterday and have one of the women involved co-ordinating with the others today, hopefully. I don’t want to say much more in a public forum just now as it may prejudice the case and between the details we’ve got and the tweets we saved the police have everything they need. Even if this doesn’t go to court the guy should hopefully be publicly outed in California and the shame of this will not only stop him attacking women online, but also discourage others from trying this in future. I found out last night that this idiot had been making sexual threats to some of the women concerned for over two years now.
While no one has contacted me directly, it does seem that John V’s Twitter accounts—he had several—have been shut down. If this guy is as crazy as he seems—and his mentions of rape and escalation of contact over the last few months suggest that there is some real escalating mental illness involved—I doubt that the threat of legal action will be enough to stop his behavior. But we’ll see.
And of course there has been a ton of internet commentary on this. And a private message from a woman industry professional I respect greatly who says she actually altered her public behavior over fears about John V. I can’t express the rage and sorrow this makes me feel. I never thought John V. was anything but a pest, but I can see how others have taken him more seriously. Maybe I didn’t take him seriously enough.
There’s also been some discussion of whether it took a man to actually rouse people against the troll. I’m really, truly grateful to Ron and Mark for raising awareness of this. One of the reasons I know several women never brought this up is because they felt they would be questioned for making accusations—and indeed some of the “free speech” advocates in various comment threads has diverted attention from the fact that some malicious idiot was making threats and crude sexual comments about women.
That said, this is far from my first time at the internet pigsty dance. I was once a member of a message board where male members proudly discussed that they loved to make “jokingly” misogynist statements. When I complained (or argued) I was told I didn’t get the joke and was being childish. Guess which message board I don’t go to any more?
Back on the Comicon.com and original TCJ.com boards—petri dishes of internet fungus in a variety of colors—a coterie of deeply embedded trolls got on my case a number of times—photoshopping a picture of me into a sexual act, calling me names, blah blah blah. At the time, these things bothered me, of course, but it bothered me more when some of the perpetrators were eventually allowed back into the fold—I’ll tell you this right now, my tolerance for internet trolling is Zero and my forgiveness is non-existent. Electronic emotion is cheap, and if you go out of your way to insult me on the internet, I have no reason to forgive that member ID ever.
Nowadays, I have more of a seen-it-all attitude towards the internet and message boards. I get annoyed and angered but not upset. However, I know a lot of people aren’t as thick-skinned as I am. And while we all take our lumps on a public forum, I’d suggest that those who were so outraged by the crude rape threats of John V. look a little deeper into some of the other messages floating around. For instance, Rachel Edidin examines the Idiot Nerd Girl meme which started as another expression of “get your cooties out of my hobby” insecurity:
I hate the Idiot Nerd Girl meme. I hate it for much the same reason Feminspire writer Jessica Bagnall hates it: the entrenched geek misogyny that informs its pretty pink face. I hate it because it’s a convenient distillation of everything I hate about the “fake geek girl” strawman. I hate it because it vilifies enthusiasm. I hate it because, as a member of the geek community and a geek-industry professional, and especially as a feminist geek, I nurture a deep and abiding dislike for gatekeepers.
I hate the Idiot Nerd Girl meme because it’s not just a meme in the diluted ‘net-slang sense. It reflects and recycles and reinforces a bundle of more traditionally defined memes: the sticky and tenacious subtexts and cultural dogmas that justify and normalize misogyny and harassment and make the geek community so seethingly toxic to female members–and especially female newcomers–that it doesn’t even need a formal gate to keep them out. Idiot Nerd Girl is the throwaway byproduct of a culture that regularly responds to criticism from women with flurries of rape threats.
One thing is true: I am definitely seeing a lot more male insecurity in the trolls and threats, as do some of the women I’ve privately corresponded with over this. I’m sorry that some of you feel powerless when women invade your pastimes. But just as uniting the power of the crystals makes the most powerful crystal or it takes a lot of vehicles to make a Unicron …the more people who take part, the more powerful the hobby. Guys, we’re not STEALING power. We’re making it.
In conclusion, I don’t know the actual status of any legal action against John V., but anyone who wants copies of my correspondence can email me at comicsbeat at gmail dot com.
And thanks again to Ron Marz and Mark Millar for raising attention on this matter. It’s nice to have someone in your corner.
Abusive attacks via Twitter aren’t new, but have certainly increased in media visibility over the past few months. Racist and sexist comments and threats have been detailed repeatedly in the mainstream press recently, often aimed at various prominent people in society. It also exists on a personal level, sadly, with personal attacks and bullying on the rise online.
And sadly, this is true for the comics industry as well. I hadn’t been aware of this myself, but today Ron Marz alerted his followers to one twitter user in particular, who has for the past few months been anonymously attacking prominent women in the industry with gender-specific abuse and threats. Writers, artists and journalists have all targeted by this poster over an extended period of time, whose attacks tend to refer back to rape, submission and misogyny at every opportunity. These were explicit threats made to women simply because they were women.
Mark Millar was one of those who saw Marz’s call for awareness, and made a post to his Millarworld forum in which he not only detailed the comments, but also made plans to take a stand against them. Asking for legal advice and people affected by the poster to step forward, several people contacted Millar via twitter and his message board with what could be done about the comments.
Following which, he posted again later today, explaining that he has contacted a lawyer with a view to taking legal action against this poster – who has used various accounts over the past few months to attack people, but left behind an IP trail. The police, Millar says, have been informed, and will now be following up on this. Action will be taken within the next few days.
The threats are misogynistic in the extreme. I won’t link to them.
It’s a reminder that while abuse does exist online, they come from the minority voice. For every person who decides to use the internet to try and threaten other people, there are tens of thousands of other people who won’t tolerate prejudice. If you ever find yourself to be a victim of online abuse, please do not suffer it in silence. Let other people know.
Here’s a new one for the comics-related crime blotter: A Utah teen has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault after he used replica Wolverine claws to attack a friend.
No one knows why Kristofer Ryan Huff, 19, set into his 20-year-old roommate with the claws….and also a knife. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that the victim was dating Huff’s mother, who was also injured in the attack.
The victim ended up with injuries to his head, arm and thigh, presumably long slashes of the kind a weapon that goes “Snikt” would make.
Will replica Wolverine claws now be banned? They don’t seem to be too hard to buy, although one guesses they are generally sold for cosplay purposes, not mayhem.
The New York Times wades in to the Silberkleit/Goldwater legal battle over Archie Comics in a very lengthy story:
At this, the last of the privately run Mom-and-Pop comic book dynasties, Ms. Silberkleit, 59, the daughter-in-law of a company founder, Louis H. Silberkleit, is deadlocked in a court battle for control of the company with Jonathan Goldwater, 52, a son of another founder, John L. Goldwater. Like Betty and Veronica, the two are feuding over Archie’s future, but there is nothing comic — or friendly — about their rivalry. Each accuses the other of endangering the family legacy, Mr. Goldwater by wanting to expand Archie into a megabrand with help from outside investors and the Hollywood uber-agent Ari Emanuel, Ms. Silberkleit by vowing to keep the company’s traditions intact and preserve family ownership, ostensibly leading to stagnation.
By now you know a lot of the wacky details: “Penis! Penis! Penis!”, the restraining orders, the menacing muscle who was only a friend, and so on — but this account adds some dog poop.
As acrimonious as the dispute is, it is now going to mediation:
After a series of court rulings against Ms. Silberkleit that included a $500 fine — for violating the temporary restraining order by twice showing up at the office in mid-December with a former football player in tow — and responsibility for $59,000 in legal expenses accrued by the company, last month the hostile parties agreed to take their problems to mediation. Ms. Silberkleit’s 50 percent share of the company is not in jeopardy, but her job may be.
“The judge was very much against Nancy’s case,” Mr. Simmons, Ms. Silberkleit’s lawyer, said. “Mr. Goldwater defamed her, and Judge Kornreich has gone along with it. But the judge didn’t go to the length of removing Nancy as C.E.O., although that’s basically what Goldwater and his lawyer have been asking for.”
Daniel Best is at it again, this time with the decades-spanning story of Joe Simons’s stolen artwork and a subsequent investigation by the FBI:
In 1997 an art dealer contacted Joe with an inventory list of 300 pages of his original art that another dealer was openly selling. When asked how the dealer had come into possession of the art, the response was that Joe had ‘gifted’ the pages to the dealers father, a claim Joe denied; as the art had never been returned to him by DC, he could not have possibly gifted it to anyone. DC Comics then drafted a letter asking for the return of the art and also refuting the story of how the dealer came to own the art. Once again the reply was that the art would not be returned, so Joe Simon simply turned to the F.B.I. and requested their involvement and here’s where the story got very interesting.
This story touches on one of the great mysteries of the Bronze Age, the theft of thousands of pages of artwork from both Marvel and DC in the 70s, including much by Jack Kirby
that was the cause of the movement to give him back his art in the 80s. The Simon case is less well known. Comments and links give some hints of other events and tantalizing hints of possible culprits.
Also interesting about this story, is that a 1974 fanzine—Inside Comics by Joey Brancatelli—was actually doing investigative journalism about the inside working of the comics biz! In 1974!!! Could such a thing happen today? More likely, as with this very story, some creator would write an angry blog post about it, someone else would comment, a blogger would link to both and add some other reference, and there it would lie to be chewed over on Twitter. Guilty as charged, ma’am.
Last week’s Eagle Awards were notable for both an uncharacteristic lean towards mainstream titles, and for a Scarlet Witch-esque announcement made by MCM Expo convention-runner Brian Cooney at the ceremony that from now on, there would be no more Eagle Awards. It was widely reported that the ceremony – the longest established comic book awards show in the world, having first started in 1977 – would be replaced by a new show called ‘The MCM Awards’.
This came as a surprise to many people, but not least to Cassandra Conroy, the Chair of The Eagle Awards, who this week issued a press release contesting Cooney’s claim:
The Eagles are neither dead nor morphing into anything else. MCM Expo is in no position to announce, imply or indicate otherwise. In fact no third party can casually discard what my father has developed over the past 36 years.
Conroy made it clear in the release that neither her nor her father Mike Conroy, who founded the awards, were actually in attendence at the ceremony this year, ominously hinting that the pair had boycotted the event;
in response to actions that are now being reviewed by my lawyer.
First Brett Ratner leaves the Oscars, and now this. The Conroys go on to clarify that;
The Eagles will continue to soar into 2013 and beyond. We’ll be announcing further details of our plans for next year in the near future.
In response, the owners of the MCM Expo (and co-claimants of the Eagle Awards) have said that Cooney’s announcement was more an announcement that, from MCM’s perspective, the awards were done with forever. They view the MCM Awards as a replacement for the Eagles, rather than a spiritual successor or continuation, and are looking to launch in 2013. So, if the Conroys can regain their full claim on The Eagle Awards, it’s likely that they’d also be hosting a ceremony next year.
Remembering that we also have the Hugos, Stan Lee Awards, Eisners, and Harvey Awards - among others - then it looks like 2013 is looking to be an excellent year for people who like seeing Paul Cornell in a smart suit.
By Jeff Trexler
Other comic news sites are reporting a bombshell development in DC’s legal fight to hold onto the Superman copyright: on Monday, the company filed a court document asserting that the Shuster estate had actually sold its share of the Superman copyright back to DC in 1992 and affirmed this sale in subsequent correspondence.
This was indeed a stunning piece of news — back in 2009, when DC first made this argument. Click below for an explanation of why DC brought it up again in a court filing on Monday.In 2009, DC Comics filed the hotly disputed lawsuit in which it is attempting to get the Superman copyright termination claims thrown out of court on the basis of misconduct by Siegel & Shuster heir lawyer Marc Toberoff. One of the arguments made in the 2009 complaint: the Shuster estate has no legal grounds for filing a termination claim, inasmuch as the estate signed an agreement in 1992 selling all of its copyright interests, including any termination right, to DC in exchange for a pension for Joe Shuster’s sister. The 2009 complaint went to assert that the Shuster estate affirmed this agreement in correspondence after the Siegel heirs filed their own termination claim.
The 1992 agreement and the related argument have been discussed by any number of writers since DC first made the claim, including me here at The Beat, and has been the subject of many court filings over the past three years. DC brought it up again on Monday as part of a standard legal move in a case such as this. Its July 16 filing wasn’t a Perry Mason-esque unveiling of surprising new facts. Rather, it was a routine motion for summary judgment.
In a motion for summary judgment, a party is asking the judge to make a ruling based on the existing case record without going forward with a trial. The factual predicate for such a decision is supposed to be the case’s undisputed facts. That’s why you see the abbreviation “SUF” throughout the most recent filing — it’s a reference to the “Statement of Undisputed Facts” proposed by DC. The summary judgment filing, the proposed SUF and the attached exhibits collect all of the material favorable to DC in order to persuade the judge to make a final judgment in its favor regarding the claims initially filed in the 2009 complaint (as amended somewhat a year later).
This isn’t to say the summary judgment filing is unimportant — to the contrary, it could lead to the end of the case or at least provide the basis of an appeal, as we have already seen following the district court’s historic 2008 summary judgment giving the Siegel heirs half of the Superman copyright. However, what this filing does not do is add unexpected arguments and facts. The whole point of a summary judgment filing is to say there’s nothing new left to discuss.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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By Jeff Trexler
Whatever the merits of the latest summary judgment motion in the dispute over the Superman copyright, its supporting exhibits bring together a number of important documents in two accessible filings.
The first set brings collects key contracts and court filings in chronological order, from the sale of Superman to the current termination dispute. We’ve seen much of this before, but not in one place. Especially worth noting are full copies of the complaint, court opinions & settlement in the 1947 Siegel & Shuster lawsuit.
The other set of documents, focusing on the Shuster heirs, contains material pertaining to Shuster’s estate and the 1992 pension arrangement, including an unproduced screenplay for a Siegel and Shuster biopic.
By Steve Morris
According to a report in Variety, it looks as though Marvel Studios may be looking into extending 20th Century Fox’s contract on the Daredevil franchise – last seen being worked on by director Joe Carnahan – in return for having certain Fantastic Four characters given back to them. Namely, it appears, Silver Surfer and Galactus.
In an interesting move, Fox have only a few months left to get their reboot of Daredevil off the ground before they lose claim of the character rights back to Marvel. If they don’t start pre-production by the 10th October, then Marvel would get Daredevil back, for use in their own projects. Fox have been desperately trying, with this in mind, to get a new film off the ground, but have struggled to find a director to stay with.
But it appears as though Marvel, in exchange for passing up on this chance to reclaim the franchise in this case, are instead more interested in getting back the rights to some other characters belonging to Fox: The Fantastic Four’s cosmic opponents Silver Surfer and Galactus.
It’s strange how these behind-the-scenes dealings sound so much like playground trading sometimes. But it’s clear why Marvel would rather have Silver Surfer and Galactus than Daredevil. For one thing, their current ambitions are cosmic – Thor seems set to be playing in the cosmic realm in his sequel, whilst Thanos appeared at the end of Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy will be Marvel’s next new property to hit the big screen. Fitting in some established, familiar names like Norrin Radd (uh, that’s the Silver Surfer) and Galactus would be a big help in guiding fans to the theatre.
Previously, Marvel have been able to reclaim both Blade and The Punisher as film properties, as the respective studios involved with those characters ‘timed out’ with them. If Variety are correct with this report, then it’ll be interesting to see just what Fox might do in order to hold onto their almost-cemented plan for a Daredevil film.
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Well, if you wondered if tensions were going to deescalate between former collaborators and childhood friends Tony Moore and Robert Kirkman after Moore filed a suit to collect what he alleges are his fair share of the profits from the Walking Dead comics and TV show, the answer is “HELL NO.” Moore has actually filed a SECOND suit claiming that he should be named joint author of THE WALKING DEAD, BATTLE POPE, BRIT, DEAD PLANET and MY NAME IS ABRAHAM. (The latter two are comics as yet unpublished but developed by the two when they were friends.)
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in US District Court, Moore came out swinging with Lucille:
Kirkman is a proud liar and fraudster who freely admits that he has no qualms about misrepresenting material facts in order to consummate business transactions, and it is precisely that illicit conduct which led to the present lawsuit (and to Kirkman’s business ’success’ generally).
At issue is Moore’s claim that he and Kirkman co-created all the works in question back when they were friendly collaborators, and that Kirkman fraudulently removed Moore’s name as co-copyright holed after the proofs of the first issue of THE WALKING DEAD had been turned in. Moore claims he was listed as the co-copyright holder in the proofs he saw but when the printed issues came out, Kirkman was the sole copyright holder—however, he didn’t notice this until August 2005. (THE WALKING DEAD debuted in the innocent year of 2003.)
Moore also claims that he was coerced into signing an agreement to transfer all of his copyright interests in THE WALKING DEAD to Kirkman so that a TV deal could be signed. As we’ve noted before, this is fairly standard in getting TV or film deals exactly because of these kinds of rights disputes—studios don’t want to deal with a bunch of warring copyright holders. However, Moore claims that this was all part of a swindle to get him removed.
The lawsuit seems to stem from the earlier one, in that as agreements between Moore and Kirkman for the monies to be received are already in existence, in order to get the piece of the pie he feels he is due, Moore must sue for his co-creator status. And as we’ve seen time and time again, that is where things get messier and messier in this comic book business.
Although Kirkman has yet to respond publicly to this lawsuit, he issued a statement on the first one, which was filed back in February, which stated that Moore was being paid what he was due under agreements that had been signed seven years prior.
You can read the entire new filing below.