Bissette Blathers Into 2012

2012, Week 1: Context is Everything

As noted at the end of 2011, I’m cutting back my blogging to once per week; too many pressing projects and obligations to continue daily (or almost daily) posts. I’ll keep ‘em meaty, still, or link to meatier Bissette blather current elsewhere online—as I can today!

If you care to spend some time with me, jump on over

  • to The Comics Reporter‘s “January 3, 2012: CR Holiday Interview #14″ post, a lengthy and very current interview by Tom Spurgeon (one of the good guys in comics journalism) with yours truly.
  • That should provide an ample Bissette “fix” for the first week of the new year!

    Which leads me to

  • this oddly-headlined post at Newsarama, which I hasten to add somewhat distorts the context of my own
  • end-of-2011 Myrant post,
  • which was about a very particular situation on a very particular project with a very particular collaborator, and wasn’t intended to tar either creative collaboration nor advocate for work-for-hire.

  • Tom Spurgeon brought the post to my attention on Comics Reporter.com,
  • as did my old FantaCo pal Roger Green on his comment to the original Myrant post.

    Tom wrote,

    “I found a bit odd the way Graeme McMillan presented this link to a Steve Bissette piece on not being able to release 1963 material because of Alan Moore‘s active disinterest. I had a similar experience to Steve in terms of losing out on such a gig because of another creator’s choice, and while I was of course similarly disappointed, I don’t think I would ever say my situation was a case against creator ownership, or even against collaboration.”

    Nor did I; I merely noted how ironic all this is, which seems utterly self-evident, given my positions for creator ownership and against work-for-hire on principle. Again, that peculiar case history is neither a reason to oppose creative collaborations and co-creator-ownership per se, nor an advocacy for work-for-hire per se.

    It is what it is: a peculiar, individualized circumstance, all the more ironic since it involves Alan Moore.

    For the record, I continue to enjoy many fruitful creative collaborations and partnerships, and many past partnerships continue to be fruitful: i.e., the Center for Cartoon Studies is a constant and daily dance of creative collaboration; David Lloyd recently reprinted our one-time collaboration (“Remembering Rene,” originally published in Eclipse‘s Tales of Terror #7); Stanley Wiater and I profited in 2011 from 2010 and 2011 reprints of select Comic Book Rebels interviews; etc.

    For those with long memories and/or long lifespans in comics, my generation learned this lesson at the very outset of the creator publishing movement for the Direct Sales marketplace, via an aborted series entitled D’Arc Tangent (1982).

  • I cited it specifically in my long dialogue/exchange with Dave Sim (FAXes and Myrant posts) that ended 2010 and opened 2011,
  • and steered readers then (as I do now) to Out of the Vault‘s pretty definitive overview of that long-past debacle, here.
  • 1963 was different, in that (a) the six issues of material exist and were published, and were instrumental in both (b) linking Alan and Image, to the benefit of both (though Todd McFarlane and Alan‘s Spawn collaborations saw print first, 1963 was the launching pad project and original conduit, an opening Todd and other Image partners understandably jumped upon, to the detriment of 1963), and (c) pulling Alan and myself (I can’t and won’t speak of the respective situations of our collaborators) out of the post-Tundra fiscal holes we found ourselves in.

    And to address the copyright points raised on the comments thread on the Newsarama post, repeating statements already made on Myrant and elsewhere in the past: (a) In 1998, the three core partners on 1963 amicably and contractually divided up the primary creative properties, leaving me sole proprietor of The Fury (and that comic title), N-Man, the Hypernaut, and Sky Solo, and all relevant supporting players and concepts, as well as the anthology title Tales of the Uncanny; the rest is co-owned by the other two core creators. (b) I in no way regret that 1998 decision; at least I am left with something to work with. (c) While I understand completely the point of copyright law being raised, given Mr. Moore‘s position on things in this world, I for one would not lift a finger on, agree to, advocate for, or pursue a 1963 reprint without some form of release or contract from/with all participants in the original series—with Alan‘s first and foremost signed and in hand, before anything else was begun, and since that’s nothing I can accomplish, c’est la vie.

    I made a public notice of the culmination of the 1963 debacle—now in its 20th year, since we began work on the project in 1992—to note one of the many downsides of 2011 for me, and the upside of still earning quarterly royalties from collaborative work with the same creative partner(s) for DC as work-for-hire hired hands.

    I could have gone on to cite the fact I am essentially left to using either transfer-of-copyright or work-for-hire contractual language in all my recent N-Man, Fury, Hypernaut, and Sky Solo creative collaborations and/or commissions.

    While everyone working with me on these will earn a share of any, if any, profits, having to retain absolute ownership of the trademarks and copyrights on everything done with the characters has not been comfortable, nor conducive to making any great commitment to such a venture.

    More on this later in 2012, when I celebrate the 20th anniversary of our beginning work on 1963 with the print-on-demand publication of Tales of the Uncanny and one companion volume—and that’ll be that, I reckon.


    Discussion (9) ¬

    1. Tim

      Print-on-demand editions of TALES OF THE UNCANNY? I’m there!

    2. Thad

      Whew — quite the meaty interview there; lots to think about.

      I definitely think some good comics histories have suffered for their lack of images — The Ten-Cent Plague is riddled with paragraphs-long descriptions of violent covers from Lev Gleason and EC, where it would be much better if it could just reproduce the images. Spiegelman and Kidd’s Forms Stretched to Their Limits: Jack Cole and Plastic Man, by contrast, is full to the brim with Cole’s actual work (including Murder, Morphine & Me in its entirety). The tradeoff, of course, is that it’s a much shorter, more specific, and more expensive book.

    3. John Pannozzi

      Hey, Steve, nice to hear your thoughts.

      I just want to say that while I mostly agree with your views on creators’ rights and all, I can’t fully understand the apparent bad blood between you and Image Comics. You’ve mentioned that you were doing to do a project at Image Comics about a year or two ago, but it fell. What exactly happened?

      While I will not dare to defend the actions of one Mr. T. McFarlane (though to his credit, judging by David Hine’s comics, TMP International at least now the common sense to give its freelancers a decent work-for-hire contract in writing now), I can’t help but feel that, at least over the past 12 years or so, that Image has done more good for the indie comics scene, since they mostly focus on creator-owned alternative titles as opposed to studio-driven superhero universes (and even the Rob Liefeld stuff is about to be relaunched with more alternative-flavored writers and artists at the helm). And other companies like Oni Press are also doing a good job making creator-owned, alternative books available to the masses. Last time I checked DC and Marvel may rule single-issue sales, but graphic novels and collected editions are (rightfully so, IMHO) are a more lucrative market, one that Image and Oni are currently ruling thanks to the Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim.

      Speaking of Scott Pilgrim, are you at all familiar with that franchise, Steve? It may not necessary be your cup of tea, but I think you’d at least admire how it takes advantage of the freedom of creator-owned comics. I can’t help feel that it’s inspiring the way that Bryan Lee O’Malley managed to tell his story his own way, have a big Hollywood made out of it, create a sensation in both the film and comics fandoms, and do it without having to sell his rights like Siegel & Shuster, Kirby, et.all had to, or facing the pitfalls of fame and fortune that Eastman & Laird and the Image Boys fell into, or engaging in the level of controversy that Dave Sim or even R. Crumb faced. O’Malley’s story, to me, is a sign that things will better for comics and especially comics creators in the future.

      Oh, and I highly suggest that you check out my Facebook page, DisneyMarvel, always pay royalties on reprinted material:
      http://www.facebook.com/pages/DisneyMarvel-always-pay-royalties-on-reprinted-material/266274436722606?sk=info

    4. patrick ford

      Steve, I really enjoyed your interview at the Comics Reporter.
      Your various points about the mainstream super hero oriented comic book industry are dead center. This goes to not only the publishers, but to the people working in the industry, and much of the mainstream comic book press.
      Tom mentioned being fired from a small gig he had writing for Marvel, apparently in retaliation for comments he made on the Comics Reporter which displeased Marvel.
      Your post about the pit-falls of creator owned work involving two or more creators, being turned into an attack on Alan Moore. Moore is currently a persona non grata in the eyes of mainstream fans because he’s turned his back on the industry.
      The non-reaction from the industry as a whole to both the Mouse vs Man court case, and your various writings on it, is just what I would expect, but still disappointing. Your related piece on the case at TCJ didn’t generate the dialogue you said you would like to see. As you point out, there has been almost no reaction to the case at all from mainstream professionals.
      Is it fear, disinterest, or “I’ve got mine.”

    5. Tony Frazier

      Thanks for the link to my old D’arc Tangent post. Revisiting your blog got me thinking about 1963, so I decided to feature it in my latest Out of the Vault (now on a different website, BTW). I hope you don’t mind.

    6. Tony Frazier
    7. Henry R. Kujawa

      Catching up on some of your posts today. These references to Alan Moore continue to baffle me. WHY would someone totally refuse to allow a project to see print which could MAKE HIM SOME MONEY???

      I can’t help but be reminded (again) of the bizarre situation between me and Nick Cuti over an intended MOONCHILD THE STARBABE one-shot. Several years after it started, and stalled, I decided to finish it on my own, and mailed him the finished book. He was so delighted (it seemed) he did a painting for the cover, then went looking for a publisher. But a year-and-a-half later, he contacted me, saying he would prefer the book “never” be published, because he felt he’d “lost control” of it. And then he suggested I might change the faces and character names and put it out myself. (But since HE wrote the story, there’s no way I could be satisfied with trying to turn them into “my” characters.)

      So I posted the ENTIRE BOOK at my website so everybody could read it for free.

      If I ever get to a point where I can publish it as a book myself (or find someone else willing to put up the bucks to do so), I’d put it out in a flash, then pay Nick his fair share of any profits. I doubt he’d put up a fight about it. I mean… WHY would he? And who could afford to, in this economy? Better make some money than watse a ton of it letting LAWYERS get rich for no good purpose.

      I just checked… WHY am I not surprised that Alan Moore is a SCORPIO??? (And with the SAME BIRTHDAY as my Dad!!! AAAAAAAAUGH!!! That could explain a LOT of things.)

    8. Joe Ryan

      Very interesting interview. I was a little surprised when you mentioned that those involved with the CCS were not that interested in having all the history you have collected being donated to them down road.

      A friend of mine was involved in sorting out the donated collected records and manuscripts of James Michener that were donated to their college library. Took over 3 years just to sort and catalogue everything.

      In my own collection I’m certain my wife & kids could easily find buyers for the comic art if they ever decided to sell but might find things a bit harder on the Anime artwork since we collect what we like that may not be from series that have a popular following in the USA. I can kinda put it like what Steve mentions as he was surprised that the scripts for Saga of the Swamp Thing did not seem to generate excitement when he proposed their donation yet I’m sure there is a collector out there that might pay a lot to possess them.

    9. patrick ford

      I saw this from you on facebook, but have no idea as to how to answer there.
      “So, let’s see—http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=37017 —according to Marvel, STAN LEE is the primary creator of ANYTHING Jack Kirby worked on, right? I mean, that WAS and IS the legal argument involved with that 2011 judgment. But: “Quesada: From the Marvel side of things, we absolutely agree that Gary made a significant contribution to the creation of Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. Tha…t has never been under contention. But Gary didn’t do it alone. Mike Ploog, the original artist, was a co-creator. Other people contributed as well, including Roy Thomas and Stan Lee. There were many individuals present at the time of Johnny Blaze’s creation who disagree with the claim that Gary was the sole creator.” So, see, if it benefits Marvel, the writer, and especially writer/editor, IS the primary creator. The artist is just, like, a meat puppet, a pair of lackey hands, moving graphite around at the behest of Marvel. But when it doesn’t… Work-for-hire, as a principle, invites, even demands, such rationales.”

      Most of this comes down to Marvel’s concern that Kirby was never under contract wityh Marvel 1958-63, not even with something like the stamped checks.
      Marvel had to argue Lee was the sole creator of characters, and gave them to Kirby. If you readf the Judge’s ruling it’s clear Lee also claims to have helped design the visual look of the characters. If Kirby had been pitching characters to Lee which Lee could accept (The Hulk) or reject (Kirby’s Spiderman), then it would show Kirby was working on spec with no expectation his pitches would be purchased. That’s why James Quinn had Lee say (as pointed out by Toberoff) he always paid “artists” for rejected work. This came right after Toberoff has questioned Lee about Kirby’s Spiderman. That portion of Lee’s testimony was redacted from the scant bits Disney chose to include in their release of Lee’s deposition. We only know Toberoff questioned Lee about Kirby’s Spiderman because Toberoff mentioned it in a letter to the judge where he complained Quinn appeared to have coached Lee right after Toberoff finished his questions, and then Quinn had Lee return and give the testimony where Lee said Kirby was paid for the rejected Spiderman pages.

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