Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Fateful Superman Check Is Up for Auction

MARCH 27, 2012
By Geroge Gene Gustines
New York Times

Is a check for $412 really worth $412? That’s a question that has comic book fans intrigued this week. The check in question is the one endorsed by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster when they signed over their rights for creating Superman, whose adventures are published by DC Comics. Now the auction site is putting the check up for sale. The auction began on Monday and ends on April 16. The 12 bids have already pushed the price to $25,500.

The check includes an accounting: $130 for the rights to Superman, $210 for stories in Detective Comics and two $36 payments for stories in More Fun and Adventure Comics. The back of the check includes a stamp from a United States District Court from 1939, when it was used as evidence by DC Comics in its successful copyright infringement lawsuit against Victor Fox, a publisher who unveiled Wonder Man, a champion created by Will Eisner. That wondrous hero, DC Comics said, was too similar to the Man of Steel.

The signing away of the rights to Superman long plagued his creators, and their heirs have been waging a court battle to restore their claim on the copyright. In March 2008 a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that the heirs of Mr. Siegel were entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to the Superman character.  Time Warner, which owns DC Comics, would keep the international rights to the character. On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter said that Warner Brothers Studios and DC Comics had filed a brief before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to try to hold on to all rights to the character.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mark Waid Buys Into Digital, Sells Off His Comics

This article about Mark Waid just blows my mind. He's so committed to the future of digital comics that he's selling off his considerable print collection of comics.

Though I can't let go of my comics from the 1960s and 1970s, I have been doing something similar.  I'm slowly selling off my modern comics that I've bought since 2004, when I returned to reading comic books.

Though I will never get over reading comics printed on paper, I know that the digital comics downloaded weekly on my iPad are indeed the future - whether I like it or not.  Give this article a read and see what you think the future of comics is.

Peace Out!


The Los Angeles Times

by Noelene Clark
March 16, 2012

Comics need to adapt to a digital medium if they want to survive, comics writer Mark Waid told WonderCon attendees Friday afternoon during a panel spotlighting his career. And to drive his point home, Waid announced that he is selling his extensive comic book collection to fund a weekly online comic series, which will launch in May.
“This is in no way a hard-luck story,” said Waid, the writer behind Marvel’s relaunch of “Daredevil” and co-creator (with artist Alex Ross) of the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel “Kingdom Come.” “I’m a very lucky man. I don’t have to do this because I need a kidney. … I’m just doing this because it’s about the right time to let go of the past and really embrace the future.”
A future for comics, according to Waid, means creating comics specifically for a digital audience, instead of adapting print comics for the Web. For example, comics are created in a vertical format for print, however digital readers tend to read on horizontal devices, Waid said, holding up an iPad. Furthermore, they should cost 99 cents instead of the $2.99 or $3.99 major comics publishing companies currently charge, he said, explaining that smaller comics creators can’t always afford to print their books and have them placed in shops, and so the Internet provides a better outlet.
“They don’t want to undercut the 1,800 Diamond retailers out there in the world, and I get it,” he said. “I don’t want to undercut them either. But we’re playing a different game. The more of us that know how to do this for the Web, the better off the medium is.”
Waid is teaming up with John Rogers, the writer and producer of the TV series “Leverage,” to develop his own “digital publishing imprint,” he said. The project will be funded by the sale of his comic book collection on
The new weekly series will be created by Waid and artist Peter Krause, who worked together on “Irredeemable” and its spinoff series “Incorruptible.” Although Waid has said those comics will come to an end in May, he hinted during the panel that the new digital series will pick up where they leave off. Each weekly installment will be smaller than a full comic book — a decision inspired, in part, by serial newspaper comics like “Prince Valiant.”
“We said, ‘Let’s look at the old Sunday pages,’ not in any way in terms of tone or in terms of language, but really in a sense of how much of a chunk of story feels like a good, satisfying chunk of story,’” Waid said. “And what we found so far is about eight to 10 screens feels about right.”
Waid is also releasing a one-off digital comic, a zombie tale drawn by “Narcopolis” artist Jeremy Rock, that served as a “proof-of-concept” for Waid’s digital format. The comic, titled “Luther,” is available free on Waid’s website.
But Waid was careful to honor the character’s past, even as he tried to turn over a new leaf. “If I had come and just started to clean house without any sort of acknowledgement of what had happened in the past, I would have had my head handed to me,” he said.“Even I got to the point of having to take a stiff drink at the end of each issue,” Waid said, laughing. “Will nothing ever go right for Matt? Why doesn’t every issue open up with Matt having a gun in his mouth?”
Instead, Waid took inspiration from his own approach to dealing with dark points in his life.
“Matt hit that point: ‘I just have to start faking it until I make it,’” Waid said.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In Memoriam

Sheldon Moldoff

Sheldon Moldoff, Batman Comic Book Artist, Dies at 91

New York Times
By Daniel E. Slotnik
March 8, 2012

Sheldon Moldoff, who drew some of the most recognizable superheroes of comic books’ golden age without receiving recognition in his own right until decades later, died on Feb. 29 near his home in Lauderhill, Fla. He was 91.
The cause was complications of kidney failure, his daughter, Ellen Moldoff Stein, said.

Mr. Moldoff drew covers for the first appearances of the characters Flash and Green Lantern in 1940 and some of the earliest renderings of Hawkman. He also contributed to the first issue of Action Comics, in which Superman was introduced (though he did not draw the Man of Steel).

But he is probably remembered most for his work as a ghost artist on Bob Kane’s Batman from 1953 to 1967.

“He would get the script, give it to me, and I would lay it out, finish it, pencil it up and give it back to him,” Mr. Moldoff told The Asbury Park Press in 1999. “Now, being a ghost, you don’t say anything to anybody. You just work for your boss and that’s it. So Bob took all the credit.”

Mr. Moldoff used a distinctive cartoonish style that complemented the often-bizarre Batman plots of the 1950s and ’60s. He created some of the oddest characters ever to grace Gotham, like Zebra Batman, Ace the Bat-Hound and Bat-Mite. Among his hundreds of Batman covers is one showing Batman carrying Robin’s body for a two-part 1963 story called “Robin Dies at Dawn.” (The Boy Wonder pulls through.) But at a time when most artists went uncredited, Mr. Moldoff’s signature was never attached to the work.

With the advent of comic conventions and a growing comic culture, fans came to recognize Mr. Moldoff’s work in the 1980s, according to a blog by Mark Evanier’s blog, a comic-book writer and historian.

“The credits gradually were given to me,” Mr. Moldoff said.

Sheldon Douglas Moldoff was born on April 14, 1920, in Manhattan. By the time he was 17 he was submitting freelance work to Detective Comics.

Mr. Moldoff was hired as an assistant to Kane out of high school, but left to draw Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman and his own recurring character, Jon Valor, the Black Pirate. In 1953 he began working as one of the chief ghost artists on Batman, doing that work until 1967.

Later he worked with Kane on Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, a Batman-inspired cartoon featuring goofy animal superheroes.

His wife, Shirley, died 10 years ago. In addition to their daughter, Mr. Moldoff is survived by two sons, Richard and Kenneth; his brothers Sonny and Stanley; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Published 2011 by Spiegle & Grau

Before I get to my own review of Grant Morrison's book, Supergods, I need to say that I have read another review of this book previously, and I found my thoughts on Morrison's work very similar to the reviewer.  To read this review, "Superheroes, Surveyed and Sized Up," by Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times (July 18, 2011), please click on the hot link.

When I finally got to it, I was very excited to dive into Morrison's book.  I had been meaning to read it for some time, but other things kept coming up.  So a few weeks ago, it reached the top of my stack and so I started to read.  I was intrigued by the subtitle, "What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human."  Clearly, this was to be no ordinary history of comic books - though it is that to some degree. Morrison is aiming much higher.  It seems like he is aspiring through this book to become to comics what Joseph Campbell was to myth.  But if that is his goal, he falls short - and not by a little bit, either.

First Appearance of Superman
Roughly, the first third of the book is a summary of the Golden Age of Comics up through the Bronze Age.  It is absolutely riveting.  As a storyteller, Morrison is esteemed company.  He has a way of drawing you in and conveying a sense of newness and urgent importance to something you may have already known - or thought you did.  Morrison's description of the cover of Action Comics #1 is amazing.  I thought I knew all about that cover - that it had nothing new to teach me.  But he deconstructs it, revealing layers of meaning that I had clearly missed.  I won't repeat his exegesis here, but it is certainly worth reading.

I just wish that the entire book had been written like this - a history of modern comics from 1938 to present day and how this medium's myth-making relates to the human condition.  Now that would have been something - that's the book he ought to have written, or tried to write and then found himself lost.

Grant Morrison
I started tuning out in his more biographical sections.  Not that I object to his retelling of the angst of his teen years in Scotland.  Some of it is quite interesting.  But the portions of the book related to his life after he makes his mark in the comic book industry are often very egotistical and self-absorbed.  I was disturbed by his very frank admission to drug experimentation as a means of furthering his creative force.  His recounting of a hallucinogenic, pharmaceutically-induced mystical experience at the foot of Kathmandu is especially tedious and self-involved.  I don't question the importance of his mind-altering pseudo-religious experience to him and his creative process.  As he relates it, it's obviously filled with meaning for him.  But not necessarily for the reader.  And furthermore, it comes across as almost pathetic as he recounts how he tries and fails numerous times to recreate that unique experience.

The last part of the book devolves into a partial history of the modern era in comics and, as the NYT reviewer noted, mere "shout-outs" to his friends and colleagues in the industry.  It could have been - should have been - so much more.

I'm still glad that I read it.  Can I recommend it to others?  It depends on what they are looking for in this book.  I will say this - it is insightful of how the artist's life influences and shapes his writing process.  To read this book is come to some sort of understanding of why Grant Morrison's comics are the way they are - for better and worse.

Peace Out!

Steve Rhodes

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!!!

(or Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday)

Monday, February 20, 2012