Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #12: "No Marvel as we know it without Jack Kirby"

News from the Boycott Marvel frontlines.

A wonderful letter from J.T. Dockery on the Captain America movie and Jack Kirby's legacy:

In all the marketing and advertising and big money deals that have put this film based on comic books on the screen for distraction of the masses and money in the pockets of Marvel/Disney, what has been much less publicized is the recent legal decision that sided with Marvel against the family of Jack Kirby (Kirby is no longer with us on this mortal coil), essentially screwing him again, even in death, out of any revenue generated by characters he had a hand in creating. Legally speaking, he may have been doing his job under a work-for-hire basis but, frankly, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not interested in legalities; I’m interested in fairness.

Elsewhere, in the wonderful land of Twitter, a light-hearted exchange stemming from the recent Grant Morrison Rolling Stone interview took place between Robin McConnell (of Inkstuds podcast fame) and cartoonist Dustin Harbin (who besides his own self-published comics does some lettering for Marvel). The exchange is worth noting because it sums up some of the issues the boycott has been raising recently. I've excerpted part of their comments below, apologies if I mixed up the order of the tweets since I had to do some cut and past stuff to make everything readable:

Inkstuds: Interview with Morrison today is a reminder of how irrelevant mainstream comics have become. if marvel and dc disappeared comics would be better for it.
Harbin: You mean comics would be better if the two biggest employers, Diamond, and most comics shops went out of business?
Inkstuds: The artistic depths of a comic by Chris Ware is beyond anything DC has done in 20 years. On that note of dc, i read Batwoman today. amazing art. story was total shite. They even include the script so you can see how much JH3 improves what he has to work with.
Harbin: I think we agree on a lot of it! But things are too complicated for "Marvel and DC just disappear." For instance, a market that can support an annual Los Bros collection wouldn't exist without "big" comics companies. For good or ill, the furnace of the comics industry runs on big dumb comics Speaking as a former store manager. The big books pay for the ability to carry smaller press books, minis, etc
Inkstuds: not getting into this debate with you kind sir. we have very different POVs on the system. the whole thing is a mess.
Harbin: Boooo Robin. Where are your nuts?
Inkstuds: hhahaha, let me get drunk first! At some place that allows for more constructive debate than can come across 140 characters. A discussion better had with a bunch of bottles and no one listening and retweeting.
The debate is not just sales, but art, treatment of artists, moral and ethical expectations.
Harbin: Sure I guess. Go ask around about page rates at the prestigious small press companies if you're worried about ethics. Sorry dude it's bedtime on the East Coast--now Twitter will only remember your simplistic offense on Chris Ware's behalf!
Inkstuds: Who said offensive?
Harbin: I was replying to you saying simplistic offense.
Inkstuds: I dont think its an offensive comment to remark on a large corporate entity.
Harbin: Oh--I meant your offense in terms of you worrying about mispeaking publicly.
Inkstuds: Ok then, we can just hug it out.
Harbin: Yes and afterwards I'll buy you a beer. I'll have to cash my Marvel Comics check first, since that's my biggest reliable income.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #11: "Jack Kirby is going to murder us all in our dreams."

All the latest news about the Marvel Boycott.

In his latest Comics Journal column, cartoonist Frank Santoro has a few more words about the Marvel Boycott, including the news that he will no longer work for Marvel Comics. It's definitely the recommended read of the week, maybe the whole month. Plus, you get a Michael DeForge comic, Frank's thoughts on popular music, and a discussion of Klaus Janson as a colourist as a bonus. I won't excerpt Frank's comments here because they're fairly short, not to mention wonderfully profane. Go read it!

Also worth reading: Last week Rich Johnson interviewed the publisher of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson, at the Bleeding Cool website. Of course, whatever Stephenson says should be taken with a grain of salt since his company is in direct competition with Marvel and would potentially benefit from a large-scale boycott, but for the record, here is part of their exchange on the subject of Jack Kirby:

"Rich: You’re not publishing Kirby these days, the case doesn’t have an impact on any of Image’s contracts, people seem aware of what they are signing at Marvel and DC these days… are you joining the Steve Bissette boycott? How do you feel about Image creators who work on Kirby characters that pay the Kirby estate nothing?

Eric: Well, we’re not actively publishing Jack’s work, but one of his creator-owned properties, Silver Star, remains in print here at Image, and Image published a project he was involved with, Phantom Force, back in the early ’90s. Jack was an inspiration to every single one of Image’s founders, and with Phantom Force, that was Image’s chance to kind of say thanks, and for all that project’s flaws, it still made an incredible amount of money for Jack and his family.

But I can’t fault Image creators for working on Kirby characters when nothing is being paid to the Kirby Estate, because I’m guilty of that myself. I can’t really say, “Hey, I worked on those characters when I was younger, but I think you’re a bad person for doing that,” now, can I? Above and beyond that, though, it’s not really my place or Image’s place to tell creators what to do or what not to do with their careers. People have enough going on in their lives without some prick browbeating them over the phone and telling them what they can and can’t write or draw for other publishers.

The Bissette thing – I commend what he’s doing, because I think there’s real value in people coming together to make a stand. I’ve read these comments online where people say he’s naive or whatever, but you know, a lot has been achieved throughout the history of the world by people joining together as one and making their voice known. That’s exactly how democracy is supposed to work, and it’s the apathetic majority, cynically folding their arms and castigating everyone else for actually having principles that prevent it from working. As far as venting his anger and frustration over a wrong that should have been righted by now goes, I totally respect what Steve is doing. Why is his position any less valid than all those people who petitioned to save Spider-Girl, or whatever? I personally think demanding some respect for Jack Kirby’s legacy is a far more worthy cause."

Read the full interview here.

And remember, no matter where you go and what you do today, please consider Boycotting Marvel!

Total Recall Film Shoot in Guelph

A crew from the upcoming Hollywood remake of Total Recall were in Guelph yesterday shooting a scene for the movie. Most of downtown was closed off while the film crew shot takes of actors walking across a street --pretty exciting, I know, but a fascinating window into the drudgery of big budget movie production. Despite several fierce rainstorms, it seemed like everyone in the city came downtown to check out the action and try to catch a glimpse of one of the stars. Although I heard from a restaurant owner who heard from someone involved that some of the leads were going to be in town (the film stars Colin Farrell, Ethan Hawke, Kate Beckinsdale, and Jessica Biel), apparently none of the mains were actually here. I certainly didn't see any celebs when I ambled down to who check out the goings-on. I did encounter a few crew members and one stunt double in my antique store late in the afternoon. Although none of them bought anything (boohoo!), the stunt double seriously considered a $2 purchase of a Guelph souvenir postcard.

I enjoyed the original Paul Verhoeven-directed Total Recall when I saw it in a theatre in 1990, despite the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger was already starting to irritate my delicate teenage sensibilities. Since then, the movie has attained a sort of cheesy cult status but is still among the best of a generally lacklustre bunch of post-Blade Runner adaptations of Philip K. Dick stories. Total Recall was adapted from Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale".

From the Guelph Mercury:

Total Recall major film shoot shakes up downtown Guelph

GUELPH — Eric Repaci and his son Brandon picked the right day to try a downtown eatery for the first time.

The pair had a front-row seat as film crews moved wrecked cars into place and set up a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster Total Recall.

“It’s a unique experience in Guelph because we don’t see this kind of thing too often,” Repaci said as he and Brandon sipped coffee on the patio at Van Gogh’s Ear. “I’m a driver for Tim Horton’s so I get detoured around these things all the time in Toronto.

“It’s neat to see it close to home.”

Alternating, and at times quite heavy, rain chased away some onlookers throughout the day.

But John Milne of Hamilton stuck it out most of the day, capturing some of the action – or lack thereof – on his cellphone camera.

Milne heard about the shooting and decided to come to Guelph to visit a friend and hang about the set for a while.

“It’s incredible the number of people and the amount of gear they need just to film a few people crossing the street,” he said.

Total Recall, set for release next summer, is an update of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic. It stars Colin Farrell as a factory worker who begins to think he’s a spy for competing nations in a post-Apocalyptic world.

To the disappointment of some onlookers, no major stars featured in the scene filmed here Sunday.

The action took place at the intersection of Macdonell and Wyndham streets, which was littered with wrecked and burned vehicles and decorated with street signs suggesting the film is set in Britain. A double-decker bus and several London taxis — painted to look like they were covered in dirt and ash — were among the props used in the filming.

Business owners near the intersection were paid to stay closed for the day, close early or simply keep their lights off.

At the nearby Apollo 11 family restaurant, co-owner Cathy Agelakos said business was down slightly because the street was closed, but added some of the film crew came in to eat in the morning.

“The workers are pretty nice,” Agelakos said. “Maybe this will bring some people downtown who wouldn’t normally come here and they will come back another time.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #10: Join the Boycott Bullpen!

The funniest and most intellectually rigorous post about the Marvel Boycott this week comes from The Mindless Ones blog. Blogger "The Doubtful Guest" (aka "Joel") has posted a wonderful political-socio essay on the nature of the 1960s-70s Marvel Bullpen, collectivity, capitalism, and something called "Thrill-Power." Guaranteed to please, or at least temporarily entrance, those who may have a more critical or academic appreciation for Judge Dredd, Herb Trimpe, Marie Severin, and Jolly Jack.

"What I mean here is the concept of the Bullpen as something that entered the comics imagination with the 1960s Marvel Age, and continues to leave its historical trace in every comics Universe. The truncated history goes that, emerging from the Eisner & Iger independent sweatshop/studio, the Fordist assembly line and the 50s post-Comics Code audience exodus, the Bullpen formation was a way for publishers to ensure greater homogeneity and editorial control over their comics lines. In terms of Marvel’s history, it seems reasonable to suggest that the invocation of the Bullpen in the comics (through Stan’s columns, and the general tone of captions and narrative) as well as the real-life office was an attempt to keep that Stan & Jack/Stan & Steve Marvel Method Magic flowing beyond its original creative flush, and, of course, beyond the departures of the two artists. In actuality, it was also a way to ensure three things: vastly unequal profit shares (through those work-for-hire contracts Bissette mentions), a usually strict division of labour, and Marvel’s good old white male hegemony."

In other Boycott news, the cartoonist Frank Santoro (Storeyville, Cold Heat) joins the boycott in his Comics Journal column and Journal editor Tim Hodler has a great link from The New York Times about the efforts of famous musicians and pop stars to regain the copyrights of their old songs in the same way that the Kirby heirs are fighting for Kirby's copyrights.

Elsewhere, Kevin de Vlaming of the Fabler Blog relays a great Scott McCloud (Zot!, Understanding Comics) quote about the Kirby case:

"But hardly any artist in that end of the business was treated fairly in those days (much like in the music industry) and Kirby in particular deserved far more compensation — and RESPECT — than he received over the years from a royal procession of lawyers, asshole execs, and two-faced colleagues.

Anyone contesting that Marvel was largely built on Kirby’s ideas just doesn’t know their comics history."

Boycott Marvel!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #9: Kirby Heirs File Appeal

Big News and New Supporters

The big news today is that the Jack Kirby family filed their appeal in the case against Marvel for the copyrights to the superhero characters Kirby created. So the court case isn't over and there is still time to get on board this protest against Marvel and Disney.

Everyday I hear from a few more people who are joining the boycott. Yesterday I received a comment via Facebook from cartoonist Jay Stephens that he's kicked Marvel. Anyone else? Let's see: yep, it looks like the comics critic and founder of The Doug Wright Awards, Brad Mackay, has joined the boycott, a brave move for the father of a little girl who just discovered Kirby's classic run on the Fantastic Four and is clamoring for more. Good luck Brad!

Elsewhere, Brendan Wright writes a really wonderful essay on the case for Kirby and how heartened he is by the boycott in terms of restoring his faith in humanity. You should go read it!

"Which is the other reason we’re here. These companies will never do the right thing on their own. It will only happen if they suffer the right combination of bad press and the threat of a loss of profit large enough to make them blink. And that’s hard to accomplish, especially with a fandom that can’t imagine not buying the next issue of The Avengers or Superman, has never not bought the next issue, but it’s not impossible. It doesn’t have to be enormous. A movie doesn’t have to fail. It just needs to be the difference between a #1 weekend opening and a #2 weekend opening. What do we have to lose?

I don’t kid myself that there’s any bravery in not buying a comic book or not going to a movie. But something doesn’t have to be brave to matter. It just requires clear vision and a goal. If we want publishers to stop denying talent what they are owed, we need to make it clear that they have more to lose by doing the wrong thing than by doing the right thing."

And Tucker Stone, who writes some of the hardest-to-parse comics criticism around, especially in his weekly "Comics of the Weak" beatdown of the latest superhero comic books, has his regular harsh things to say about the latest Marvel offerings, with a few references to the "boycott Marvel" movement. I think Mr. Stone works in a comic shop, so he may not technically be buying these comics? Anyway, it's pretty funny as usual but you shouldn't read it if you like Squirrel Girl or if you are sensitive about the use of "bad language" in your reviews of Hellboy tie-ins and Marvel's Fear Itself miniseries.

All good stuff!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #8: NYT

Well, the New York Times has covered the Marvel Boycott, sort of, by mentioning it on their comic book and graphic novel Bestseller List and linking to Steve Bissette's original call for a boycott and the letter from Seth posted here on Mystery Hoard. So that's something.

In my own boycott news, I went into my local comic shop last week, the first time I've been there since this whole thing started, and cancelled all my subscriptions to Marvel books. I'm not a big fan of current Marvel but I have gone through several periods of buying new comic books from the company over the last few years out of a combination of senile nostalgia and a misguided effort to "keep up" with all aspects of comic art. My tastes these days lean more towards graphic novels and classic comic strips, but when younger bloggers write about the plots of Jonathan Hickman comics or the slick stylings of Kyle Baker in Deadpool Max, I still burn with curiosity and have to see for myself. Usually I'm disapointed, but I have come to appreciate the various virtues of the works of Bendis, Brubaker, et al, and have even come to terms with John Romita, Jr., among many others. Regardless, I dumped the tiny batch of Avengers spin-offs and miniseries I was buying and won't buy another until Marvel does right by Kirby and his legacy. Just to be 100% Marvel-free, I even dumped the nicely-drawn-and-coloured Incognito by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips because the publisher, Icon, is owned by Marvel. (Yes, I realize that the whole idea behind the Icon imprint is to publish creator-owned work, but I still felt badly about Marvel taking even a penny from me when Kirby gets zero royalties or credit, let alone ownership, for any of his Marvel work.)

My thanks to Any Chop, the manager at The Dragon in Guelph for her patience while I explained why I was boycotting Marvel. Hopefully soon we will all have a petition ready to share with comic shops and other fans to take some of the bafflement out of this sort of exchange.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #7: The King

Just one link and one fun note tangentially related to the Marvel Boycott today:

The artist Michael Netzer has posted a long article about Jack's status as "King" Kirby that delves into the origin of the nickname and Stan Lee's role in the creation of both the Kirby Legend and Marvel's keystone comic book characters in general, all in the context of the litigation and boycott. Worth checking out, especially for Netzer's concluding sentence.

At the heart of the litigation to reclaim the rights to Marvel properties by the Kirby Estate is an issue of a moral injustice and personal humiliation that Marvel, aided by Stan Lee, tried to inflict on Jack Kirby because he dared ask that their promises to reward him, should his work help the company succeed, be fulfilled. It is painfully human and humane to understand the combative mode Kirby entered into during his latter years, which ultimately brought upon him the bitterness of betrayal that caused him to lash out in all directions. It’s a natural reaction for someone who trusted the people he worked with, and reacted with resentful emotion upon having that trust become so horrendously shattered. It becomes a much more understood reaction when seen in light of how Marvel tried to destroy Jack Kirby morally and in spirit, by attempting to turn him into the villain, when he was in effect their victim.

Now on to something a little less serious. I spent the past few days at a trade show where I picked up DC's Fall 2011 book catalog from their distributor Random House Canada (they also distribute Archie to bookstores, I think). It's fascinating to see how DC markets itself to traditional booksellers, selling their graphic novels and creators the same way other publishers market the latest mystery series or "great American novel". The thing is slightly different from the insider or fan-directed hype that is the stock-in-trade of Previews and DC's websites. Anyway, there are a few Kirby books scheduled for late-2011 release in the catalog, including Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1 --a 300 page, full-colour trade paperback (graphic novel) collecting the first part of his New Gods epic. The book design plays up Kirby's status by printing the author name first and in giant letters above the title. As I understand it, although Warner/DC owns the characters, they still pay royalties on these reprints as well as giving full credit to the creator. The opposite of the current Marvel situation. The biographical ad copy is worth quoting (emphasis added):

Jack "King" Kirby's comics career began in 1937 and continued for nearly six decades. With partner Joe Simon, Kirby first made his mark in the 1940s by drawing and/or creating numerous features for DC Comics including Captain America, the Young Allies, the Boy Commandos, Sandman, the Newsboy Legion and Manhunter. As the most valued team in comics, Simon and Kirby went on to create titles and concepts including Fighting American, Boys' Ranch and the creation of the romance comics genre. In 1961, the first issue of Marvel's Fantastic Four cemented Kirby's reputation as comics' preeminent creator, and a slew of famous titles followed that elevated him to legendary status, including Incredible Hulk, Avengers, and X-Men. Kirby returned to DC in 1971 with his classic "Fourth World Trilogy," which was followed by THE DEMON, OMAC and KAMANDI. Kirby continued working and innovating in comics until his death in 1994.

A very concise, if a trifle carefully-worded, capsule biography of The King, but I'm sure that Joe Simon would be surprised to hear he and Jack created Captain America for DC Comics!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #6: Seth

Seth on The Marvel Boycott

"...For a bunch of guys who like good-over-evil stories you sure meet a lot of morally bankrupt assholes"

--"Ashcan" Kemp


I love Marvel Comics. I have loved Marvel Comics as long as I can recall. Marvel Comics were among the very first comics I ever read.

I should qualify that statement though. When I say "Marvel Comics" I don't mean the heartless corporation. I mean Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, Larry Lieber, Paul Reinman, Carl Burgos, Stan Lee (among others), and the most important name of all, Jack Kirby. The man who created most of it.

I was pretty disheartened recently to hear that the Marvel corporation had succeeded again in robbing Mr. Kirby of his credit and his legacy. And of robbing his children of the income their father would surely have liked to pass along to them.

The corporate lie about Kirby's role in the creation of all those characters is abhorrent. It's a bold faced lie. Everyone knows it's a lie. No one is fooled. Everyone lying for the company should be ashamed. Stan Lee should be ashamed. What the Marvel corporation is doing might be legal but it certainly isn't right.

I was even more disheartened to read some of the comments of comics fans last week. A great number of whom clearly have more sympathy for the Corporation than the people who crafted the comics they grew up with. I cannot understand this and I won't bother to try. No matter what you think of the Lee/Kirby collaboration and of who did what --I simply cannot understand how anyone could agree that Mr. Kirby does not deserve at least the same credit and compensation as Mr. Lee. That's asking the very minimum of justice. "Ashcan" Kemp was speaking about collectors in the quote above but it certainly applies to superhero fans as well.

Bryan Munn asked me if I would write a couple of words to support Steve Bissette's Marvel Comics boycott. I am certainly in favour of it. I hope it catches fire and spreads. The corporation badly needs to be shamed into doing the right thing.

Admittedly, it's a pretty symbolic gesture on my part. I cannot even recall the last item I purchased from the corporation (maybe a Marvel Masterworks volume or something of that sort), nor have I ever worked for them. I certainly won't work for them in the future either until something is done to right this wrong. This is a rather hollow promise as well though --what work would I likely be withholding from Marvel Comics?!! It's not much of a heroic stance on my part.

Still, I would encourage anyone reading this to refrain from supporting the corporation until some form of justice is brought forth for Mr. Kirby. Might I suggest that money usually spent on Marvel products be redirected into the back issue market --buy some of those charming early 60s comics. That's the real stuff anyway. Not the decades of vulgar elaboration that followed. Decades of barnacles encrusting Jack's works so thickly you can barely see his genius any longer underneath all that crud.

August 9, 2011

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #5


The latest on the ongoing reaction to the Marvel Boycott.

Over at The Comics Journal, cartoonist and comics critic Frank Santoro joins the boycott and announces his new backissue sale.

On the opposite side, in a FAX-based interview with Straw-Man creator David Brainstetter, self-publisher and Biblical scholar Dave Sim (Cerebus, Glamourpuss) skirts the issue of Marvel and Disney's moral obligation to do right by Kirby in favour of more armchair legal analysis:

"Even if you leave aside jurisprudence and seek Overview in True Justice, I think you have to look at the pattern of behaviour. Jack Kirby was always a freelancer by choice. Even when Joe Simon pitched him on publishing Young Romance themselves, his choice was to take it to a publisher, thus costing them a lot of money they could have been making. [...] What was Kirby's pattern regarding his other creations? Did he actively seek to regain ownership of characters whose trademark and copyright had lapsed or did he allow them to fall into the public domain?"

Of course, Sim seems to be ignoring the major issue: wouldn't it would be "True Justice" if Marvel acknowledged Kirby's role as creator and co-creator of their major characters and compensated the Kirby family? (Whatever happened to a little "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me"?)

Meanwhile, the man who started the whole boycott, Steve Bissette, continues to chronicle the Kirby case with a couple of blog posts on Kirby's value and the nature of co-creation, with plenty of reference to Bissette's own experience with Alan Moore and Steve Ditko's working relationship with Stan Lee on Amazing Spider-Man. Lots of great facts dug up in the comments, including a real gem courtesy of Patrick Ford quoting Steve Ditko’s letter to Comic Book Marketplace magazine published in issue #63:

"In your Comic Book Marketplace #61, July 1998. page 45, Stan Lee talks about “…a very famous scene…” of a trapped Spider-Man lifting heavy machinery over his head. The drama of that sequence was first commented on and popularized by Gil Kane. Stan says “I just mentioned the idea…I hadn’t thought of devoting that many pages to it…” I was publicly credited as the plotter only starting with issue #26. The lifting sequence is in issue #33. The fact is we had no story or idea discussion about Spider-Man books even before issue #26 up to when I left the book. Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories until I took in the penciled story, the cover, my script and Sol Brodsky took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan.
Steve Ditko, New York"

Monday, August 08, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #4

FFF: Fiftieth Anniversary of Fantastic Four #1

How propitious that the Marvel Boycott begins with the 5oth anniversary of the publication of the Fantastic Four comic book, the Jack Kirby creation that revived Marvel Comics and began Kirby's run of incredible characters and stories that are still being exploited by the company today without any credit or compensation being given to Kirby or his children.

The Kirby Museum reminds us of the anniversary here, and Tom Spurgeon has some comments here.

The Kirby museum also has some recommendations of Kirby-related comics you can buy if you don't want to support Marvel, as does this blogger who is not participating in the boycott, mainly because of the perceived effect on retailers:

"As sad as the situation is the LCS [Local Comic Shop] should not pay for Jack’s adult decision 30+ years later. I was told the LCS’s would survive selling indie titles in place of the Marvel book, and I pointed out that indies do not have the same mainstream appeal and would not fill the 60% income gap that Marvel represents every week for these stores. Now I could be wrong, but cutting off a income stream is hard on any business. At this point I was told I didn’t know anything, and my LCS was worthless compared to this persons LCS which sells nothing but indie titles (something smells like a bull in that statement)."

The idea of a boycott is to put pressure on Marvel through local retailers, but that doesn't mean those who are participating have to drop comics altogether. As Bissette mentioned in the manifesto that started all this, just put the money you would usually spend on Marvel product into something else, while letting your retailer know what's up. This doesn't mean don't pay for things you've already agreed to pay for.

(At least Shawn Hopkins at the Toonzone blog has some positive suggestions --like writing letters-- to counter his objections to an actual boycott.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #3

Very Exciting!

A couple good posts today from the blogosphere about the Marvel Boycott.

First up, Danish comics critic Matthias Wivel weighs in with some thoughts about why he is joining the boycott. (There is also a good discussion n the comments between Matthias and Patrick Ford about Stan Lee's deposition and the weird testimony he gave that led to the recent court decision.)

"It may seem utopian to get Marvel to change its ways, but its nearest competitor has made some progress on the issue, paying royalties to creators from films in which their characters or concepts appear. Their track record is far from perfect, but they’re doing a hell of a lot better than Marvel and its corporate overlords at Disney, who are raking in that box office moolah over assorted Kirby-derived superhero movies as we speak. And, as Tom Spurgeon has pointed out, Kirby’s collaborator at the inception of the Marvel Age in the early 60s, Stan Lee, won himself a lucrative deal with the publisher with just as little legal claim to his work for Marvel. Why can’t Marvel do something similar for Kirby’s family?

I think Bissette’s suggestion is worth taking seriously and have decided to join his boycott. I’ve been enjoying superhero comics from both Marvel, DC, and elsewhere for a number of years now and think there are a lot of talent in the business right now, and I shall be sorry to give up on some of my favorite creators, but thinking things through I just cannot bring myself further to support a company with policies as rotten as Marvel right now.

I went to my local comics store today, passed over the superhero comics I would usually consider and picked up the latest issue of The Jack Kirby Collector. It felt good. You should consider it."

The second post comes from Alec Burris, who writes an open letter to Marvel. Maybe we all should write letters!

"I implore you, as a fan and a reader of Marvel comics since the age of six, show us some of the heroics that grace the pages of your books. Until you do, those books -those heroes- will not line my shelves.

And I will miss these books. I will miss seeing Captain America during it's theatrical run. I will miss my monthly Amazon order of all the sweet premiere editions I have been buying since I switched from issues to trades. I will miss the upgraded Ultimate edition of Marvel VS Capcom 3. But all of these things will be waiting for me to come back to as soon as you take a stand and do the right thing."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #2

Blog Reviewer Strike!

Two things about the Marvel Boycott today.

The first comes from Christopher Allen and his blog, Trouble With Comics. Chris writes that he and his partner won't be reviewing any Marvel product:

"I recently reviewed Marvel’s Thor Omnibus here on Trouble With Comics. That’s likely the last time you’ll find on this blog a review of a Marvel Comics product that stems from the original work created by Jack Kirby, unless Marvel Comics changes its corporate policies enough to do the right thing for the heirs of Kirby’s legacy. I’ve discussed this with my colleague Alan David Doane, and we agree that, even though we’re just one small part of the online comics discussion, we’re going to be true to our own values and not continue to endorse Marvel’s profoundly unethical treatment of the Kirby family."

The second post I thought worth mentioning is this one from cartoonist DJ Coffman, who proposes a few changes that Marvel could make that would signal the end of the boycott for him.

"Here’s are my suggested demands. Personally I would be happy with just ONE of the following happening:

* Now: A one time donation to the Kirby Estate of One Million Dollars, as simply a retroactive royalty for things in the past. 1 Million is a drop in the bucket, and a little insulting… but it would be a HUGE step forward.
* Forward: Give some sort of new royalty to the Kirby Estate that’s similar to the one given now to artists who draw so much as licensing art for a Toothbrush on Hulk. It’s only fair to toss a little back. If it’s not given to the Kirby Estate directly, make it go to charity of some kind on behalf of Kirby.
* At least CO-CREATED BY credit on anything Stan Lee has taken credit for creating."

Coffman also proposes, like Bissette, a creators strike. However, I think Allen's blogger strike has a greater likelihood of recruiting members than asking people to give up their livelihoods for a moral crusade, even for a short time (like one week).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #1

So I decided to boycott all Kirby derived Marvel Comics product, including reprints, video games and movies. Since Kirby is responsible for about 80% of the recognizable Marvel characters (and other creators who have not been recognized, like Steve Ditko, created the rest), that basically means I'm not buying anything Marvel does. Not even a Benjamin Marra USAgent miniseries since USAgent is basically a Captain America rip-off, I think partly designed to get around any future legal issues involving Cap.

Anyways, the basic impetus of this decision was Steve Bissette's call for a boycott, which I endorsed on Sequential, the Canadian comics news site I contribute to. As I said there, I think this is a moral issue and Marvel needs to imitate some of the superheroes it publishes and do the right thing.

I'd be happy to give Marvel money again if one of these 3 requirements happens:

1. Marvel acknowledges Kirby as the creator or co-creator of the relevant characters and titles, giving him credit with each publication, film or other product.

2. Marvel begins paying the Kirby heirs royalties.

3. The Kirby heirs win the copyrights to the characters Jack Kirby created while at Marvel.

As for the reasons behind the boycott and arguments against, you could do worse than read Tom Spurgeon lambasting some naysayers over at the Robot6 blog:

Whether or not Kirby’s family has a legal right to share in the billions of dollars generated by these characters is what’s being decided in court through this case and the appeals process that will follow. What people are arguing today is the moral right that Kirby — and since Kirby’s not here his family — has to a modest share in the rich rewards roughly eqal to two or three years of bonuses received by a bunch of goofy-ass lawyers privileged in life to sit on boards designed to lift money away from creators and into their pockets, people that have as much to do with the creation of these wonderful characters as you or I did.

No one on planet earth older than twelve years old is comparing Lee and Kirby these days as some serious point of contention. It’s possible to love Stan and Jack. One’s awesomeness does not diminish the other’s. Lee did a ton of things super-well; Marvel would not have been possible without him for about a dozen reasons, from the script and idea work he did to a lot of unappreciated things, like his ability to communicate to artists he had exactly what he wanted in terms of dynamic art.

(And although I’m a fan of Lee’s work, I have to say that pointing out he did great work with Steve Ditko, Wally Wood and Bill Everett is hardly a slam dunk as to his stand-alone talent as those guys are all-time pantheon-level mainstream comics makers. I don’t think Lee needs to be a great stand-alone talent, though.)

The point is, though, that Stan Lee did receive — after regrettably having to sue — a level of reasonable compensation for his many and awesome contributions. (He deserves more, but still.) Why can’t the Kirby estate get a Lee-sized settlement? Why would this be such a bad thing? Why would this need to be wrung from Marvel in a court decision? DC manages to pay people for use of their characters in movies while Marvel blows this off — DC hasn’t collapsed because of this. Maybe there’s no legal reason to do it, but it seems there’s a hugely obvious moral reason. It’s the right thing for them to do. Since Marvel traffics in morality, why can’t they be moral here? Why is it “With great power comes great responsibility” in the comics and “With great power comes great responsibility to the shareholders and fuck everybody else” in real life?

I know that people say “that’s the way corporations are” but that’s just a horrendously debased and depressing way to look at life. Plus it’s historically inaccurate. All the big comics companies have changed policies for the better over the years, and stopped doing things that could certainly be defended as “that’s what companies do.” Why not change this set of policies, too?