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By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Yesterday The Mary Sue published an article noting that for-profit comic-cons might be violating federal labor law by not paying minimum wage to workers improperly classified as volunteers. However, a recent case involving Major League Baseball shows how commercial comic-cons could beat the tag.
The use of free labor by for-profit companies has become a hot issue in recent years. Internships have become a particularly touchy topic – class action lawsuits by former interns have prompted some companies to end their unpaid internship programs, although there are at least a couple high-profile cases on appeal in which companies are challenging the Department of Labor’s standards for determining whether an intern is actually an employee.
Given how costly it can be for a company to fall afoul of federal law on this issue, it is indeed prudent for the companies that run comic conventions to assess whether it is legal for them to use unpaid volunteers. This is especially conventions run by for-profit companies, since charitable nonprofits enjoy a special exemption from minimum wage and overtime requirements in regard to volunteers. The Mary Sue has once again performed a service to the community in calling attention to this important issue.
With that in mind, in making this analysis it’s important to be aware of both the law’s requirements, the specific practices of each company, and the exemptions that are available outside the one given to charities.
First, since conventions produced by ReedPop — NYCC, ECCC, C2E2 — were mentioned in the post, it’s worth noting, as several “volunteers” have stated in the original comments thread and a related Reddit thread, that ReedPop pays volunteers minimum wage as official crew. Calling people volunteers in this context is a great way to foster a sense of community and community — one of things for which Lance Fensterman and company are to be commended is the way that they have fostered this communal sensibility while maximizing return on investment.
But not every for-profit comic-con that brings on volunteers gives these workers compensation – in fact, depending on the convention, you might actually be required to pay a fee for the privilege of helping the company out! Although this may seem on its face like a violation of federal law, there’s a legal loophole that has enabled countless commercial businesses to use volunteers in the standard sense of term.
Over the years the federal Fair Labor Standards Act has accumulated dozens of exemptions for a wide range of ventures, from homemakers making wreaths to C-level executives. For a company that operates a program taking place within a limited period of time during the year, there is one exemption in particular that catches the corporate attorney’s eye: minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply to “any employee employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment…” that operates no more than seven months a year or meets a financial test as to revenue generated at different times of the year. (29 USC 213(a)(3))
There are several cases that show how a commercial comic-con can take advantage of this provision, but the ruling perhaps most on-point was issued just a year ago in the Southern District of New York – coincidentally, the same federal district in which the New York Comic-Con takes place. Chen v. Major League Baseball Properties was brought by a former volunteer for the 2013 All-Star Week FanFest at the Javits Center (!), and the volunteer made arguments similar to those made in the intern lawsuits: volunteers at the event met the criteria for employee status, and thus Major League Baseball should have paid them at least minimum wage.
Major League Baseball — and the court — disagreed. As the court observed, although Major League Baseball operates all year long, Department of Labor regulations distinguish an entire enterprise from an “establishment,” which specifically refers to “a distinct place of business.” The exemption was put in place to accommodate seasonal ventures employing people for discrete periods of time in activities that might offer “non-monetary rewards.” The court concluded Major League Baseball’s FanFest was analogous to the amusement and recreational activities in view when legislators originally enacted the exemption, and the plaintiff’s federal as well as state law claims were summarily dismissed.
The plaintiff has appealed the district court’s ruling – in fact, it was argued in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today, March 30 – but as noted above, there are a number of cases in other circuits that have reached similar conclusions. What’s more, even if the appeal succeeds, the main case being cited in opposition focuses on aspects of one baseball team’s operations that are distinguishable from a comic-con. For instance, while the team in question utilized its stadium for events throughout much of the year, comic-cons typically take place in rented facilities for discrete periods of time.
The analysis gets somewhat trickier for an entity operating multiple conventions. For instance, let’s assume that Wizard World doesn’t pay its volunteers — there’s nothing about compensation in the volunteer information packet, at least; Wizard World volunteers don’t even get munchies or parking reimbursements. The fact that Wizard World operates year-round could be grounds for arguing that the seasonal establishment exemption doesn’t apply, but there are also clever counter-arguments and organizational strategies that could persuade a court to disagree. Others have tried and succeeded with even more daunting facts – which, on a related front, is why the NCAA doesn’t have to pay taxes on ads sold for March Madness.
The seasonal exemption has long been a lifeline for companies offering an opportunity to volunteer for ventures that operate on a limited-term basis, such as amusement parks, outdoor swimming pools, Oprah’s Life You Want Tour, and New York Fashion Week. If you are an unpaid commercial comic-con volunteer who believes a lawsuit for back wages would be a clear home run, expect Major League Baseball Properties and cases like it to be deployed to strike you out.
The FBI has amassed a 7,526 page file on cartoonist/essayist Molly Crabapple, as she tweeted the other day. Crabapple’s lawyer has filed to see the papers under the Freedom of Information Act, and the FBI will reviews them 750 pages a month and pass along ones they deem fit for Crabapple to see.
What has Crabapple done to merit such attention?
Created Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School
Documented and helped organize the original Occupy movement at Wall Street
Crowdfunded “Molly Crabapple’s “Week in Hell” performance art piece￼
Was arrested during a protest on the one year anniversary of Occupy
Kickstarted a series of paintings about “The Great Recession”
Visited the Guantanamo Bay prison and wrote about it for Vice
Obviously some dangerous stuff there. HOpefully they have equally large files on actually dangerous wackadoos.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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On Friday New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio met with protestors to discuss their demands for police reform after the shocking death of Eric Garner and the controversial grand jury decision that followed. The name of the activists’ organization will sound familiar to any comics fan: Justice League NYC.
That this prominent group of social justice warriors would share a name with DC Entertainment’s leading super-team is no coincidence. Just check out the group’s logo, which features two African-American superheroes flying out of New York City through a graffiti-style logo. Dig even deeper into contemporary activism’s history and we see even more connections: Ferguson protestors formed their own Justice League over the summer, a leading progressive journalist writes at JusticeLeagueTaskForce.wordpress.com, and as pretty much everyone here knows, the Occupy movement made the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes’ mask a global icon.
The role of comics in recent protests will no doubt be the subject of any number of academic papers, most of which will bear a punny coloned title like “DC Nation: From Social Relevance Comics to Social Change.” Yet before folks explore what all this means at greater length, I want to offer a quick note on how this phenomenon ties into comics’ uneasy relationship with the law.
Before Photoshop and Final Cut made it possible for anyone to transcend their innate limitations, comics offered a cheap and easy way for people to give a visible form to their wildest thoughts. They became pop culture’s analogue to law as the magic mirror of society — photos may have showed us how the other half lives, but in comics we could create the world of tomorrow, free from the strictures of budget, politics, injury, death, and the real world’s ineffective legal system. What’s more, comics also did away with the shadows and fog that even today make inquiries such as the Serial podcast so frustrating — in the comics world we know who is good, who is evil, and who will win; the big question is how good will triumph.
That sensibility is in comics’ DNA, to both good and ill effect. An unreflective transfer of the comics’ approach to seemingly intractable problems would at its most extreme result in moral nihilism, as violence becomes the standard means of removing any obstacle to achieving what is right. At the same time, the comics’ metaphorical blend of constructive critique and unbounded possibility helps explain why the social relevance comics of the 1970s weren’t as much of a break from the past as some might think. We can draw a straight line back from the O’Neil & Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow through to the Justice League, Shock SuspenStories, Captain America and Wonder Woman — and the same is true moving forward in time to today. Comics have always had the power to show us who we are and what we can be, and they are at their best when they resemble the magic mirror as ideally envisioned by Oliver Wendell Holmes – reflecting not just our own lives, but the lives of all people who have been.
Retailer organization ComicsPRO has been a major influence in the industry over the last few years, working with publishers and holding a yearly conference that is widely thought to be one o fth emost inrpiting of the year. However, how it seems a former Board member is under investigation for possible misuse of funds, as Matthew Price reports. ComcisPRO just posted the following statement on their Facebook page:
ComicsPRO, the Comic Book Industry retail trade organization, is currently investigating the possible misuse or misappropriation of corporate funds by a former Board member. Thomas Gaul, the organization President, was recently made aware of the potential abuse. He moved to quickly inform the Board of Directors of the issue and accepted the resignation of the board member in question. The board is investigating the extent and degree of any misappropriation of organization funds, the effects it may have on the organization, and what the organization can do to recover the funds, if anything.
The Board of Directors is fully committed to uncovering all of the facts and circumstances surrounding these events in an open and transparent manner and, should it become necessary, will cooperate with authorities as the situation unfolds.
Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, there is no expected impact to the current staffing and programming of the organization.
Rat Queens co-creator Kurtis J. Wiebe has posted a statement regarding his co-creator Roc Upchurch’s recent arrest for domestic violence after attacking his ex-wife. The upshot: Upchurch is off the book.
After a few days of reflection and going through a roller coaster of emotion, I’ve realized I’m not angry about this revelation. I’m deeply saddened. When you work with someone so closely on a project that is so personal, you are much more than creative collaborators, you become friends that feel like family. I have a lot of love for Roc Upchurch, I’ve spent a lot of time with him, at conventions and signings and quiet times over dinner when the crowds have gone away. Shannon and I have spent time with his wife, whom we admire greatly. With everything that has happened, I still care about and love Roc and my greatest hope is that in all this there is an opportunity to find help and for healing to take place in his family. They are never far from our thoughts.
I’m not a stranger to domestic abuse. I know that keeping abuse a secret and being afraid to speak about it are why so many people suffer in silence. It is a topic that needs to be openly talked about and there needs to be a feeling of safety and acceptance for those that come forward with their stories. It is why I am addressing this news rather than burying my head in the sand.
I want you to know that Rat Queens means the world to me on a personal level and my mission for the series is unchanged. I want to write stories about women that I see in my everyday life, about friendship and to make comics that include and embrace diversity.
As of today, Roc Upchurch will no longer be illustrating Rat Queens. This is going to be a transitionary period for the series as we rebuild and prepare for a new start. I am committed to Rat Queens, to stand by what it has always been praised for and to prove to the fans that they weren’t wrong in loving it.
Earlier today I quoted a piece that suggested that Upchurch would not undergo any repercussions for his actions. IN this case, that was incorrect.
I’ve long been awaiting Jeff Trexler’s analysis of the Marvel/Kirby Settlement, and he starts a two-part piece with Should the Kirby Family Have Settled? In case it hasn’t been explicitly stated enough, it was Trexler’s exploration of the potentially ground breaking work for hire aspects of the case that Kirby family attorney Marc Toberoff seems to have used to get the Supreme Court to even look at the case. To allow it to go to decision would have established an important precedent—but it was extremely risky for the Kirby heirs:
That’s not an unreasonable point of view, but it’s also not entirely fair. To see why, it can help to compare the Kirbys’ situation with that of the Siegel heirs in their own pursuit of a historic precedent. As we saw with the Siegels, the calculus in the Siegel case involved more than a decision between a win and a loss. The Siegels filed their lawsuit after agreeing to a set of terms that their previous attorney had informed them was legally binding; the likely and ultimately realized worst-case scenario was that the Siegels would quote-unquote lose with an eight-figure payout. The Kirbys, on the other hand, were in Schroedinger’s Court – the case for the moment was dead and alive, but once the Court observed it the lawsuit would reduce to just one of these states with no in-between.
Trexler also suggest that the votes on the final case may not have been the ones we were expecting. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—who actually requested Marvel answer the petition—may not have been all pro-freelancer:
Nonetheless, while Ginsburg’s dissents in such infamous cases as Citizens United (opposing corporate personhood) and Hobby Lobby (opposing the corporate religious exception for birth control coverage in Obamacare) have made her an anti-corporate hero, her approach to copyright cases is far more tempered. Exhibit #1: Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion in the equally notorious case of Eldred v. Ashcroft upholding the constitutionality of the Sonny Bono Act, the law that extended the term of copyright and kept Mickey Mouse out of the public domain.
Ginsburg also concurred in the Grokster case, an unpopular decision (in free-culture circles, at least) that sided with the music companies against those who believed that online file sharing should be left alone. Moreover, Ginsburg sided with the majority in the recent Aereo case, which helped the big TV networks to keep an Internet start-up from rebroadcasting freely available TV signals. Opposing Ginsburg & the rest of the majority in defending the rights of the corporate copyright establishment: conservative Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito.
In a subsequent piece, Trexler will look at what we know of the settlement, which it’s been suggested, included a mid-eight figure monetary sum.
I urge everyone to just go read the whole thing. Given what we know, it’s quite possible that we have Trexler himself to thank for the circumstances that allowed the Kirby heirs and Marvel to come to an agreement which allows Jack to finally get his due in the modern Marvel Universe. And for that, we all owe him a huge thank you.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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A graphic novel has become Exhibit A in the latest Obamacare controversy.
Clear, simple, understandable, useful – those are just a few of the words that recurred in reviews of Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works, a 2012 graphic novel by Xeric-winner Nathan Schreiber and MIT’s Jonathan Gruber.
The irony of these descriptions is no doubt evident to anyone who has been following political news over the past weeks — years after Gruber won praise for his adeptness in making the proposed health law easy to grasp, Gruber has become the center of a political storm due to his recent off-the-cuff claim that the language of Affordable Care Act was deliberately misleading and designed to take advantage of Americans’ “stupidity.”
The dust-up has given new life to the Gruber and Schreiber graphic novel, which thanks to the vagaries of Amazon pricing algorithms appears to become an expensive collectible in hardcover. Conservative sites are finding the book funny in unintended ways, although no one has yet to explain the replacement of its originally announced artist, Dean Motter. It’s natural to assume that there may have been issues of scheduling or style, but perhaps there just wasn’t a place for health care in Terminal City.
Some people are drug addicts. Others are food addicts. Some, plastic surgery addicts. Ed Kramer, co-founder of Dragon Con and convicted sex offender, is a lawsuit addict. After more than a decade of legal wrangling that kept him from standing child on molestation charges; and dozens of jailhouse law suits involving his health and religion that made keeping him incarcerated insanely expensive, he’s back with a new law suit claiming that his conviction on child molestation charges last December should be overturned.
In court filings thundering of constitutional outrage. Kramer’s lawyer Stephen Reba claims his client was forced into last year’s plea agreement through prosecutorial misconduct, a move that he said removed Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter from the case.
“He is a witness now,” Reba told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday of Porter. “While Mr. Kramer has been vilified during the pendency of his criminal proceedings and after, this case is really about governmental overreach and misconduct.”
The state Attorney General’s Office is taking over the case, Reba said.
Porter has pursued Kramer across the nation for more than decade of court delays due to Kramer’s health and legal challenges.
“The only way it will die is he’ll have to to die or I’ll have to die and even that might not stop it,” Danny Porter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday.
I’m not going to enumerate the infuriating legal proceedings outlined in Kramer’s case, but they involves his health issues that make it “impossible” for him to stand trial, who requested the trial, and now a claim that the 14-year-old boy that Kramer was found with in a hotel room in 2011 was actually the “son of his female partner.”
Kremer is still under house arrest, and not in jail under the terms of his plea bargain, because of his health. A few months ago he was found to be claiming to be a psychology expert from Brooklyn, and talking to some disabled kids on Twitter, but it was not enough to violate the terms of his house arrest, something that DA Porter is waiting for. But Ed Kramer is a wily individual with endless patience for lawsuits, frivolous or not.
Developing. And disgusting.
It looks like the results of last month’s settlement in the Jacky Kirby lawsuit against Marvel has yielded swift results: Kirby and Stan Lee are now being given co-credit in books including Fantastic Four, Inhumans and the X-men. And Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are being given co-creator credit on Captain America. Among the books already bearing the new credits: All-New X-Men #33, Fantastic Four #12, Inhuman #7, Wolverine and the X-Men #11 and Death of Wolverine: Deadpool & Captain America #1, which has the Simon & Kirby credit.
Many speculated that the terms of the settlement included not only money but would free the way for Kirby to take his rightful place as the mind behind the visual look of the MCU and the driving force behind many of its greatest storylines and characters. While the FF and the X-Men are being cancelled or downplayed in the comics due to their movies being at other studios, Kirby co-created character such as Cap, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, the Black Panther, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (not to mention Groot) are going strong in the MCU, so expect to see more tributes to Kirby as time goes by.
I can’t imagine that there is anyone remotely in the comics business who is not thrilled to see this.
[Via Robot 6]
Here’s one of those matters where there are really no winners. J. David Spurlock, the publisher of Vanguard Publishing which puts out books about comics history and such artists as Frank Frazetta and particularly Wally Wood, is suing Wood’s ex-wife Tatjana Wood, for the possession some of 150-200 pages of Wood art. According to Spurlock, the pages are worth between $2000-25,000 each.
Wood is of course the much beloved artist of many EC, MAD and Marvel comics, including Daredevil, and then Witzend Cannon, Sally Forth. He took his own life in 1981, embittered by failing health and career setbacks. Despite that his imaginative and finely rendered art continues to be among the most iconic (overused word I know but it really fits) in the comic book world. He’s also the creator of the”22 Panels that Always Work” piece which is widely copies and referred to.
Wood left a will leaving his money to Tatjana, but his possessions—including artwork and publishing interests—to his friend John H. Robinson. In 2012 Robinson assigned all his interest in Wood’s estate to Wallace Wood Properties, LLC, a company run by by Spurlock, whose interest in Wood includes co-authoring the book Wally’s World: The Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of Wally Wood, the World’s 2nd Best Comic Book Artist.
In court documents, Spurlock says he and his lawyers made many attempts in person and by letter to get Tatjana Wood to give them the artwork, which court documents say was erroneously returned to Tatjana’s home by Marvel, who thought her address was the proper one for returns. (Wally Wood died in LA.)
The court documents, shown below with addresses redacted, lays out a paper trail suggesting that remaining Wood artwork should go Robinson/WWP.
Wally Wood was married three times, and he and Tatjana divorced in the 60s. She continued to work in comics as a colorist for years, however, and back when I worked for Vertigo she would still come into the office. It was always a pleasure to talk to her and learn a bit of comics history.
I’m no expert in Wally Wood, but I’m sure some of you comics historians out there will have some ideas about all of this. And then a little more Wally Wood art to remind you why he’s so revered.
Once again, Stan Lee Media, the shell company that does nothing but line the pockets os lawyers with frivolous lawsuits, has been dealt a blow in their attempt to take over the world. The 9th Court of Appeals ruled that no, Stan Lee Media doesn’t not own Spider-Man.
I’ve written about Stan Lee Media and their endless lawsuits before. This time, they had been claiming tha tthey owned SPider-Man because Stan Lee, the founder of the company back in the go-go 90s, said they did. or something. No court has ever agreed with this reading of the law, and it was no different this time, Eriq Gardner reports:
SLMI might contend that it was assigned rights to valuable comic book characters, but a panel of appellate judges writes, “The record demonstrates that, between the date the  agreement was signed and the filing of related litigation in 2007, SLMI never announced that it owned rights to these characters (even when publicly disclosing company information pursuant to a securities offering), licensed the characters, produced content related to the characters, or asserted or attempted to enforce its ownership rights.”
YOU’d think a winning record about on par with Charlie Brown’s baseball team would dissuade the folks behind SLMi that it was time to take the ball and go home, but no, they are still trying to appeal a judges ruling that Disney did not owe them $1 billion for using Spider-Man and the Avengers and so on.
Good luck with that.
While the harassment problems seems to have been put under control, by and large, there are a rather alarming number of reports of theft from the show, including this one, about a hand painted “Dunny” statue worth $2000 being stolen from a booth. The culprit was caught on tape taking the items at 7:25 after the show closed and fled on foot.
Nick Curtis, an associate editor at the magazine, said the 20-inch, high-priced action figure had been hand-painted by artist Jon-Paul Kaiser during the event.
“What had been done is that an artist did a live painting of it during Comic Con, making it essentially a one-of-a-kind piece of art on a 3-D canvas,” he said.
The bunny-like figurines are typically 3-inches tall, mass-produced and retail for $15, Curtis said.
The thief also stole a Popaganda “TDY” figure worth $80 and a Goodley Toy action figure worth $100, police said.
I also saw tweets indicating that writer Amy Chu’s laptop was stolen, and there’s a report of an artist having some pages stolen as well.
Thievery doesn’t invite the same kind of “they were asking for it” response as other kinds of claims, but unfortunately, these incidents are a reminder that leaving valuable things lying around is not a good idea at a crowded con. It’s also a sad comment on an otherwise peaceful crowd.
I know of one creator who had his laptop stolen right off his table at a foreign show. (I also know of several people who had wallets stolen at comic book after partys over the years—enough so that I’d rather stand around with 20lbs of equipment on my shoulder than leave them unattended.) While these kind of thefts are not uncommon everywhere, there do seem to have been several at this year’s NYCC.
Anyway, keep an eye on valuables!
As expected, the Supreme Court has denied cert in the case of Joe Shuster heir Mark Peary.
I’ve noted elsewhere that, contrary to what the rest of the entertainment press asserts, the filing of amicus briefs in support of a petition is not a sign of case momentum, and the outcome of the Shuster case illustrates why it’s important to understand this.
As for Justice Roberts’ recusal, it’s worth noting that he has done this before with cases involving a Warner Bros. subsidiary, such as Ching v. Warner Bros. Studio Facilities Inc. and Tenenbaum v. Sony BMG Music Entertainment Inc., et al. This is typically a sign of an investment.
Tribute to the King by Alex Ross.
Friday’s announcement of a settlement between Jack Kirby’s heirs and Marvel seems like good news—but is it? And what does it mean?
I’m told Jeff Trexler, whose identification of the “instance and expense” aspect of the lawsuit may have helped get that into the petition to the Supremes, is writing his summary for TCJ.com, so while we all eagerly await that, here’s a little of the known knowns and known unknowns:
First off, Mark Evanier, a Kirby family confidant, a witness at various Kirby-related trials and filier of an amicus curiae brief is certainly in a position to know more of the Kirby position and this is all he had to say on the matter:
It was announced this morning that the family of Jack Kirby has settled with Marvel Comics (i.e., Disney) ending a very long dispute. The Supreme Court was only days from considering whether to take on the case and obviously, the timing of this settlement has much to do with both sides’ concern with what would get decided there.
If you’re coming to this page in search of details and commentary, you’ve come to the wrong place. I will be saying nothing about it other that I am real, real happy. And I’m sure Jack and his wife Roz, if they’re watching this from wherever they are, are real, real,real happy.
That’s either great fronting or a pretty solid indication that the Kirbys got what they were looking for. Since Evanier was intimately involved in the case, it’s probably legally all he can say. But if Mark thinks Jack is smiling, I’m smiling.
You can read all the petitions and briefs here. And you can bet a lot of people will be poring over these for a lot of reasons.
Charles Hatfield has a good round up of the ins and outs of the case itself, the many friend of the court briefs, and how the case grew in importance as more Hollywood vested interest signed on.
However, news of the cert petition reignited publicity over the case, and in May SCOTUS discussed the case in conference, after which the Court requested a response from Marvel. Then, in June, things started to happen: several important amici curiae briefs supporting the Kirbys’ petition brought high-profile attention to the case. One of these was filed on behalf of Kirby biographer Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby Collector publisher and editor John Morrow, and the PEN Center USA (a nonprofit representing diverse writers).
In addition, the California Society of Entertainment Lawyers filed a brief. Another brief that became very important for the press coverage of the case was submitted by Bruce Lehman, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and an authority on intellectual property law. Lehman filed in collaboration with former US register of copyrights Ralph Oman, the Artists Rights Society, and the International Intellectual Property Institute; they were joined by the American Society of Illustrators, the National Cartoonists Society, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and other organizations representing arts professionals—as well as scores of cartoonists and illustrators who also signed on.
Kurt Busiek has been debunking some common myths about the case in the Beat’s own comments, but perhaps because Beat commenters are just smarter or less pig-headed than the average commenter, he saved his masterpiece in the genre for this CBR thread where he debunks from all times that the Kirby heirs were just greedy and opportunistic. (Link via Tom Spurgeon) He also speculates about the outcome, just like Iim gonna do in a few paragraphs:
Based on that, it sure doesn’t look like Marvel’s throwing the Kirbys a few bucks to go away. If that’s what they wanted to do, they could have done that any time within the last few years. Whoever blinked, it was the side that had the most to lose if the case went to the Supreme Court and risked a ruling they didn’t like.
That wasn’t the Kirbys — they were already getting nothing, so the Supreme Court deciding against them wouldn’t hurt them any.
But Disney/Marvel has billions on the line. They don’t want to risk losing that. Not even with a pro-business Supreme Court likely to rule for them. Because they’re not sure the Court would rule for them. Not with a bunch of people on the other side who make IP contracts their life — including one of the guys who helped write the 1978 Copyright Law. If that guy is saying, “No, no, it doesn’t work that way,” there’s too much of a chance that the Court will listen.
So my prediction is: All the public changes you see coming out of this are going to be favorable to the Kirbys. Probably the first thing you see will be creator credits. And the family’s going to suddenly be financially secure, like their father/grandfather wanted them to be.
What the “greedy heirs” morons don’t get is that this was a case with very important principles set off by the Copyright Law of 1976 regarding what is work for hire. As Kevin Melrose reports of a Law.com article, many issues remains undecided by the settlement, and it’s entirely possible that these will crop up again and the Supreme Court may yet hear such a case:
The Kirby heirs insisted the artist was an independent contractor who worked from home, provided his own supplies and received no benefits. However, he Second Circuit, using its frequently criticized “instance and expense” test, found that because Marvel assigned and approved projects and paid a page rate, Kirby’s contributions were indeed “for hire.”
The Kirbys took aim at the Second Circuit’s definition of work for hire in their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which drew support from the likes of Hollywood guilds and a former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, demonstrating the potentially far-reaching ramifications of the dispute. However, the 11th-hour settlement announcement arrived just ahead of a Supreme Court conference on Monday to determine whether to review the case — meaning the Second Circuit’s finding stands.
So the gray area surrounding work for hire before 1978 remains, although experts say given that 56-year window — or 35 years for copyrights transferred after 1979 — it’s only a matter time before another case, more likely to involve a musician/songwriter than a comics artist, makes its way to the Supreme Court, requiring the justices to weigh in.
As Kirby family attorney Marc Toberoff told Law.com, “At some point there will be another case like this.”
While it seems unlikely from the outside that SCOTUS would ever have sided with the Kirby heirs, Marvel didn’t know, and a happy smiling settlement was vastly to everyone’s benefit. And more to the point, there’s no such thing as secret in entertainment any more. As Joshua Riviera writes for EW:
One of the great things about modern pop culture isn’t just the wealth of content available, but the interest it has spurred in the creators behind it. Showrunners, once an invisible position in the broadcast era, are now at the forefront of fans’ minds when obsessing over TV. Similarly, the public perception of filmmakers has slowly evolved from the days of the monolithic studio system to accommodate directors and screenwriters and cinematographers and composers and VFX teams and crew. Comics have come a long way from the 60s, which saw Jack Kirby slowly become frustrated with the business that grew and endures to this day thanks in large part to his labors—now many comics are sold based on the strength of the people making them. But the way comics creators are credited in other media based on their work is often lacking.
Yet, things have changed a lot from the days when Marv Wolfman was barred credits of Blade, setting off a lawsuit he eventually lost and the current spate of copyright battles. Nowadays, one imagines, Marv would be saluted at the Hall H panel and trotted around to talk shows. While it’s pretty clear that you need to lawyer up to get your share of whatever pie — mini or maxi — may exist, Marvel/Disney has become more sensitive to the bad publicity of the starving creator railing against the corporation as he rolls around in his ratty sleeping bag from his stately cardboard box on the street.
And now some speculation from me. Given the fair-enough-to-shut-them-up treatment of Jim Starlin and the family of Bill Mantlo over Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney and Marvel seem to be on a better path now. You can attribute that to the bad optics of the cardboard box creator, but I’m pretty sure most of the top brass at Marvel proper, including Dan Buckley, Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso, would wish to see creators fairly treated if it were within their powers. (The same was undoubtedly true of Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn at DC.)
Given the huge, vocal and unending respect for the work of Jack Kirby by just about every creative type involved with all these “comic book movies,” I share the Busiek viewpoint that we’ll see more public inclusion of Kirby among the “Marvel founders.” Kirby always got acknowledgement in the credits of Marvel movies, but we could see more “created by” credits. Kirby could be inducted into the “Disney Legends” hall of fame type deal. Disney doesn’t do a ton to promote its actual creative people, but I’d expect to see Kirby enshrined as much as possible.
And now, here is my Torsten-like fantasy to end this. Maybe someday at Disneyland, as the Marvel character rides and characters and churros swirl, there could be a statue of Stan and Jack as they create the Marvel Universe as we first knew it. I’m not sure Jack would have really liked that, but the victors write history, and I’m pretty sure that Jack Kirby is a victor now.
A joint statement has just been released by Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby indicating that a settlement of somekind hs been made:
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
The Kirby Estate had been suing Marvel for right to the characters Kirby created over the years, from Captain America in the 40s to the Fantastic Four in the 60s. Although every court case went against the Kirby family, recently it seemed that the case might actually go to the Supreme Court, and it may have been the unpredictable nature of the claims that led to this settlement.
While an initial wave of joy over the end of this battle is the natural emotion, one hopes that the Kirby family got something out of this and it wasn’t just keeping up appearances in the light of an ongoing battle that didn’t look like it would end favorably.
The San Diego Unified Port District Harbor Police have issued a second and final press release in regards to the case of the injured cosplayer at Comic-Con, and it has been ascertained that her injuries were most likely sustained as the result of a fall, not an assault.
Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, July 27, 2014, a juvenile female was found with significant injuries in the pool area of a hotel at 333 West Harbor Drive in San Diego. The juvenile female had attended Comic Con earlier in the day and still had her costume on. She was transported to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.
In connection with the case, Harbor Police arrested a 29-year-old man early Sunday morning, July 27 at the hotel. He was booked into San Diego County Jail at 11:20 a.m. on charges of sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Harbor Police Investigations Unit has been investigating the incident, including the cause of the injuries to the victim.
After the incident, Police began a thorough investigation of the facts, including a review of footage from multiple surveillance cameras, as well as the assistance of community members and Comic Con attendees who provided extensive information and sent photographs for review. The investigation concluded with a finding that the juvenile female’s injuries were not the result of a criminal assault, and were likely the result of a fall. Her injuries, and physical evidence at the scene, were consistent with a fall from the distance of approximately six feet.
This finding does not affect the charges against the 29-year-old male, which will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. Because this case involves a minor, no further information will be released about this incident.
While the number of accidents that occurred at the con should not be downplayed, the true facts of the case are not nearly as dire as suspected.
While our heartfelt wishes for her recovery are in no way changed, I can’t help but think that a wave of relief has flooded over the Comic-Con community. It’s also notable that 1 am Saturday is a busy time at the con, and that a lot of people must have seen what happened and helped police put together an accurate report.
Once again, all good thoughts to the injured girl and her family.
I’m sure everyone has now read up on the details of the arrest regarding the 17-year-old cosplayed who was found injured and was presumably attacked at Comic-Con on Saturday night. The man who was arrested was 29-year-old Justin Kailor, a photographer associated with something called Project Cosplay. Kailor was friends with the victim, and indeed many photos of her are watermarked with Project Cosplay so she clearly had an ongoing relationship with the project. According to Kailor, the two went to the show together and argued at the Marriott about whether to leave or not, and he became worried when she left. About an hour later she was found bloody and unconscious at the pool or the Marina Marriott.
“I just wanted to call it a night and take her home to her parents and be on my way…,” he said. “She ran off and I didn’t follow. She didn’t answer the phone. She was gone for so long I asked security if they had seen her.”
About an hour later, he said, security found the girl unconscious and bloodied in the hotel’s pool area. He added he was with security when they heard she had been discovered and police were notified. The hotel manager did not return calls seeking comment.
THe girl’s family was interviewed by local news
, and confirmed that the victim would have a long recovery, but the support of the cosplay community was much appreciated. Police haven’t commented on whether Kailor is involved in the assault on the victim; his arrest was in connection with giving her alcohol and unspecified “sexual contact” with a minor.
The investigation is still ongoing; anyone who has any information should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few personal comments: it’s hard to imagine an idea more disturbing than a bloody, severely injured teen-aged cosplayed being found by a pool at the Marriott Marquis, possibly sexually assaulted, in the middle of Saturday night at Comic-Con. I’ve been by that pool, you’ve been by that pool. I took a shortcut through that pool nearly every day at the con. I stayed at the Marriott on Tuesday night, I’ve been there with groups, I’ve been there alone and so have you.
There is a great deal we do not know about this case, and I’m not going to speculate on what happened. But based on what we do know, there is nothing shocking, unusual or dangerous about the behavior of the victim. She did what hundreds and thousands of people have done at Comic-Con for years—dressed up, hung out with friends and moved around a place she assumed was safe.
What is shocking, unusual and dangerous is the behavior of whoever left her lying bloody by the pool.
I’m turning off comments here, but if anyone has any RELEVANT information regarding this, such as benefits, cosplay group response, or knowledgable insights, email me at comicsbeat @gmail.com. This is obviously a tragedy, and will contribute to a lot of the ongoing discussion about cosplay, consent and conventions.
Please continue to think good thoughts for this young woman and her family.
With Comic-Con winding up there has been a smattering of word on Tumblr and Reddit about a young female cosplayer dressed as Rgoer Rabbit being attacked and left bleeding by the side of the road. The story has been reported on Tumblr and Reddit, and after speaking with the girl’s parents, I have ascertained that it is unfortunately true. The SDPD is currently investigating the crime. I have removed the names from this, but if you have any more information, please do not contact the family directly. Call the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000. I repeat, DO NOT CALL THE FAMILY. Several people have already spoken with them and with their daughter in the hospital they do not need any more distress fielding phone calls.
According to the girl’s mother, her injuries are severe, and indicate a vicious beating. Here is the account of what occurred from Tumblr:
IF YOU WENT TO SAN DIEGO COMIC CON OR KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS, PLEASE READ.
One of my dearest friends was found on the side of the road, unconscious and bloody. She was wearing this cosplay on the day it happened. She was last seen with friends when she ran off after a disagreement. Please, please, please, if you have ANY information or saw her anywhere, contact her mother. The full information is down below. This isn’t okay and it’s sickening to know that this happened at a place people truly can enjoy themselves. Please spread the word.
”I just received a call from the San Diego Police Department and my daughter REDACTED aka REDACTED was found on the side of the road covered in blood with no ID unconscious. They are unsure what happened to her. My husband is on his way to the police station and then the hospital. If you have any information on what happened to her please send me a facebook message or call me at REDACTED. Thank you in advance”. -REDACTED
Obviously this crime is going to be added to the current discussion of all the issues regarding Comic-Con, harassment, cosplay, crowds and more. It’s a stark and heartbreaking reminder that even if Comic-Con is a wonderful fantasy world brought to life, there are real life predators out there. Have fun but play safe and sane. My heart goes out to this girl, who was an experienced cosplayed who had recently been to Anime Expo, and her family. Her mother says it was her dream to go to Comic-Con. Let’s hope that her attackers are caught and when she’s recovered she can come back in style as a heroine.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Comic-Con hit TMZ after America’s Next Top Model winner and media personality Adrianne Curry, dressed as Catwoman, chased down and whip-punched a man who thrust his hands down the tights of another model dressed as Tigra. As horrible as Sunday’s attack was, could this incident help us deal with such harassment more effectively?
Curry’s superheroic response to the sexual attack on her friend Alicia Marie underscores the importance of taking sexual harassment at comic conventions seriously. Comic conventions have experienced exponential growth in recent years, filling not only convention venues but downtown city streets into volatile vectors for sexually inappropriate behavior. And contrary to the stereotype-ridden TMZ video, dorky fanboys are not necessarily the only culprits – downtown San Diego has become a five-day Festival, with the Red Hour striking anew each time you walk out the Convention Center doors.
How to deal with the problem of harassment within and without Comic-Con was attracting the attention of multiple media outlets even before the attack on Alicia Marie — in fact, after I scheduled this post for publication on The Beat, even Perez Hilton found the Adrianne Curry incident to be a source of moral outrage. Over the next couple posts I want to add a legal perspective, since this happens to be an area in which I have clocked a few villains of my own, albeit with words instead of a whip.
Before we do, however, I want to address a thought that may have popped into the minds of some readers, namely, the notion that women such as Currie and Alicia Marie are themselves somehow asking for it. I actually witnessed a vivid expression of this mindset when a cosplaying woman outside the Con tried to fend off a guy’s come-on by handing him a business card and promoting her own work. The guy responded by contending that there was no other way for a man to take the way she dressed than as a sign that she was looking to get laid.
This exchange stood in stark contrast to the professional discussion I’d just had with a longtime of the annual Comic-Con Masquerade, the amazing Broadway actress and theme-park entertainment designer Diane Duncan. Last Friday when we were walking through the convention chatting about cosplay she stopped to point out what she thought was a standout example of excellent craft, a woman dressed as Poison Ivy whose costume exhibited a number of characteristics that would have done well for her had she worn it for the Masquerade competition instead. The costume had a sensual vibe, yes, but that was an extension of the workmanship — whether the cosplayer’s aim in such artful attention to detail was self-expression, marketing a product, promoting her own business or a combination of all three, baiting men for sex was not the point.
As it turns out, the cosplayer was none other than Adrianne Curry, and as I read up on her and other models who cosplay I found myself in rather familiar territory. In advising on ethics and other legal matters in the fashion industry, it’s all too common to run across men who view what women wear as a sign of sexual availability, as opposed to a form of stylized expression that for many women in modeling, marketing, retail and design is an integral part of their professional identity.
The intrinsic connection between cosplay and fashion got me thinking about another connection they share: namely, unfortunate loopholes in current sexual harassment law. Although we often use the phrase “sexual harassment” when speaking of unwanted advances to cosplayers and fashion models alike, from a legal perspective the term typically refers to sexually inappropriate behavior in certain employment contexts. For example, because models are typically independent contractors, not employees, they are often not protected by sexual harassment laws, and a similar principle applies to comic convention cosplayers who are not there in the course of employment — regardless of how egregiously inappropriate the behavior may be, it technically is not a violation of sexual harassment law, nor would it fall under the purview of a typical harassment policy.
Within the fashion industry, this lacuna is being addressed primarily in two ways: through legal reform and private action. New York, for example, recently enacted a law that extends the protections in child labor laws to underage models, and efforts are ongoing to give volunteers and independent contractors new legal protections when sexually harassed. At the same time, the campaign against harassment within the industry is giving rise to new standards and practices that go beyond the limits of sexual harassment law while taking advantage of more general protections that other laws already provide.
We’re seeing a similar strategy evolve among cosplayers in regard to private action, most prominently in the work of Geeks for Consent, whose signs could be found throughout the convention center this year. I was glad to meet the group’s intrepid director, Rochelle Keyhan, briefly during Comic-Con, and have considerable regard for its efforts to call attention to this important issue. However, it’s also clear that a sharp divide persists between those calling for a more rigorous sexual harassment policy and Comic-Con itself, which has taken the position that a sufficient policy already exists. Awareness, as they say, has been raised, but the ideal provisions of a convention harassment policy remain a matter of dispute.
In my next post, we’ll take a deeper look at the Geeks for Consent campaign, the Adrianne Curry incident and existing law to see whether we can devise a new policy that will address the concerns of all sides in the ongoing debate. Meanwhile, if you have any opinions or experiences pertinent to this important discussion, please feel to leave them in the comments thread or shoot me an email at email@example.com.