Read about Warner Bros. wresting control of the Superman property from the Siegels (for now), creative team chaos at DC Comics, Stan Lee’s video message for the victim of the Taft Union High School shooting, and more in today’s NEWS Round-up.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the ruling in the Superman case!
The news of the ruling in the dispute between Warner Bros. and the Siegel estate over the commercial rights to the Superman property came too late in the week to make the previous News Round-up, so we’ll just lead today’s article with it. From our report:
Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th US Circuit of Appeals ruled that a 2001 oral agreement between Warner Bros. and the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel granting the former full commercial control of the Superman property is legally binding. Reinhardt’s ruling effectively does away with a previous 2008 decision by Judge Larson of the US District Court for the Central District of California awarding Siegel’s estate an unspecified share of all Superman-generated earnings compiled by Warner Bros. since 1999, when Siegel’s wife and daughter attempted to reclaim his share of the Superman copyright by filing for a termination of copyright notice.
The ruling could not have come at a more fortuitous time for Warner Bros., with a new Superman film entitled Man of Steel due out in theaters on 14 June.
However, Siegel counsel Marc Toberoff, who also represents the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, has stated that the Shuster family plans to contest a separate 2012 decision awarding Warner Bros. the rights to the Superman property.
We’re not sure if the Siegel estate can appeal the ruling or if it has alternative legal recourse at this point, but we wouldn’t at all be surprised if this marks only a temporary cessation to the seemingly never-ending battle between Warner Bros. and Superman’s creators (and their heirs) over control of one of mass media’s most recognizable and profitable properties.
All-female cast set for X-Men title re-launch
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Marvel is reviving the adjectiveless X-Men title later this year and with the book’s relaunch is news that the book will feature an all-female mutant superhero team roster featuring Storm, Psylocke, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and Rachel Grey (a.k.a. Rachel Summers, a.k.a. Marvel Girl, a.k.a. Phoenix). Oh, and judging from the cover preview, it seems like Storm is back to rocking the mohawk she had back in the mid-1980s. We like that. Mohawks suggest a commitment to edginess and the use of hair-styling product, not at all like the fauxhawks all the hip kids and middle-aged singles bar patrons are sporting these days.
Storm’s return to her Reagan-era coiffural splendor will likely be buried under the inevitable Internet outrage over Marvel calling an all-female team of mutant superheroes “X-Men,” never mind that it’s obvious that the use of “men” in this case is meant in the generic, non-gendered sense. Unless Marvel shifts to publishing in a language that has an unambiguous and branding-friendly non-gendered generic noun for the human species, X-Men sounds fine to us. In all honesty, we don’t know what else Marvel could have called the book. Calling it X-Women is pandering in a “You’ve come a long way, baby” kind of way and would probably be even more offensive to certain segments of the readership. X-Persons just sounds stupid. A guy at our local comic book shop earned some angry glares and a few embarrassed giggles with his “X-Menstruators” joke.
Besides, we here at Comixverse Central actually like how the “X” in “X-Men” gains a second meaning in this new reading: as a reference to the female sex-determining X chromosome.
X-Men #1 by writer Brian Wood, artist Oliver Coipel, and colorist Laura Martin is slated for an April release.
Peter David post-stroke recovery update
Last week’s News Round-up featured an item on how you can help Peter David and his family with the costs of his post-stroke hospitalization and rehabilitation by buying his books from Crazy 8 Press or his Marvel Comics graphic novels. For those of you who also want to send physical stuff (get-well cards, tokens of appreciation, etc.) to David, you can send your packages to the following address:
c/o Second Age, Inc.,
P.O. Box 239,
Bayport, NY 11705.
As for Peter’s condition, Kathleen David wrote on her blog recently that:
Yesterday [January 12] he could open his hand on his own. Not with his other hand or someone else spreading his fingers, his right hand responded to his brain’s command to flatten out. Now he has to work at it, but he can start to do it. The more of this he can do without assistance, the better it will be for him in the long run.
He still has a long road but he keeps moving forward with determination.
DC Comics: Again with the firing and re-shuffling
In a development that would be almost hilarious if it didn’t involve comics professionals losing out on paying gigs, DC Comics has taken the practice of creative team shuffling and firing personnel to another level by yanking writer Robert Venditti off Constantine and writer Jim Zubkavich off Birds of Prey even before their first issues on their respective titles have even hit retailer shelves. This isn’t the first time that writers have been replaced before publication of their previously solicited work, of course, but with the speed and efficiency that solicits can now be announced and circulated on the web, it can certainly make for confusing and awkward situations for all involved. Replacing Venditti on Constantine—a book whose reputation is already taking something of a preemptive beating as the “mainstream” successor to Vertigo’s Hellblazer (and we all know how the cancellation of that title went down with the fans)—are Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes. Fawkes was supposed to replace Gail Simone on Batgirl after her controversial firing but when DC backtracked on letting her go because of the huge public outcry against the move, we suppose they had to put Fawkes somewhere. Venditti will keep his position writing Demon Knights.
Jim Zubkavich, on the other hand, will be replaced by Christy Marx on Birds of Prey. And while we’re absolutely certain that Marx has done nothing less than genuinely earn the job, the timing of the replacement does lead us to speculate whether the decision was at least partially motivated by PR concerns on the part of DC. Of late, the publisher has been the subject of much criticism from the fan community regarding its treatment of women employees, what with the runaround it gave the aforementioned Simone as well as the rumors surrounding the departure of former executive editor Karen Berger, senior DC executive Dan Didio’s baffling response to the allegation that DC has drastically reduced the percentage of female creators in its employ from 12% to 1% since the launch of the “New 52″ re-branding campaign, and years of negative publicity stemming from ex-editor Valerie D’Orazio’s exposé of what she perceived to be a work environment hostile to female workers and the sexism that informed 2004′s Identity Crisis. (Who can forget D’Orazio’s story of an unnamed DC editor gleefully shouting “The rape pages are in!” in the DC offices?)
For his part, Zubkavich has been all class in his response to being dropped from Birds of Prey, writing on his blog that:
Obviously I’m disappointed, but I also know this isn’t any kind of personal judgement about me, it’s a business and creative decision that came late in the process. I’ve been working in and around the comic industry for the past ten years and know it can be a wild ride. This is still a step forward for my career, just not as big of one as I’d hoped.
I want to thank the DC editorial staff who worked with me over the past few months as we developed stories, characters and plot lines: Mike Marts, Rachel Gluckstern and Rickey Purdin. I want to give a special thank you to Bobbie Chase for asking me to pitch on Birds of Prey and championing my approach. I knew I was a bit of a dark horse going into the race and she gave me a chance to show what I could do.
Thank you also to the writers who helped make me feel a part of the DC creative family: Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder, Justin Jordan, Gail Simone, James Tynion IV and Charles Soule.
Even though this didn’t work out the way I planned, I feel fortunate I was able to put my best foot forward. I’m hopeful about other writing opportunities to come in 2013 and am optimistic about comics as a whole.
Christy Marx on making comics for female readers
Speaking of Christy Marx, the newly-announced Birds of Prey scribe was recently interviewed by Newsarama‘s Vaneta Rogers and she had this to say about the standing perception in certain circles that DC Comics is not exactly a leader in the employment of female comics professionals:
Newsarama: There’s been quite a bit of attention paid by comic fans toward the dearth of female creators who work for major comic book publishers. Do you have any ideas about why women aren’t attracted to this type of creative field, and what would you suggest publishers or other industry folks might do about it?
Christy Marx: I feel there’s been a Catch-22 at work with comics. Comics were mainly written and drawn with young boy readers in mind for decades. As those readers grew up, they wanted more mature stories and comics began to reflect that. They entered the field and became the subsequent generations of comic creators, but they were primarily male and tended to create for their type of male audience. Those who market comics don’t see female readers attracted to these books—big surprise—and it reinforces the notion that females aren’t interested in comics and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I see this happen big-time time in the videogames business as well.
You can get female readers, but they need the right material pitched to them the right way.
The veteran comics, video game, and television writer (Marx co-created the characters for Hasbro’s Jem way back in 1985) expertly sidestepped the main thrust of Rogers’ question in an attempt to be politic with regards to speaking about her employer but her response—including what she chose not to say but implicitly suggested—is also informed by the practical reality of the popular entertainment industry: A real and lasting solution to the problem of the dearth of female comics professionals working in the major superhero comics publishing arena is inextricably linked with the task of ensuring that female readers, the source population for current and future female comics creators, actually find material in mainstream superhero comics that engages them in meaningful and positive ways.
As we alluded to in the previous item though, we do wonder if DC Comics has been trapped by rumor and reputation into a paradoxical, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t state of affairs where any attempt by the publisher to hire more women creators might be interpreted by cynical and jaded observers as simply disingenuous, stopgap measures intended to temporarily deflect the criticism that the company has been subject to over the years.
Stan Lee joins YouTube, posts first video
Stan Lee sent out a special video message of support and signed memorabilia for Taft Union High School shooting victim Bowe Cleveland Wednesday—the video is Stan Lee’s first ever YouTube upload, judging from the 90 year-old comics legend’s YouTube user profile (we also couldn’t help but notice that Lee, ever the savvy promoter, managed to throw in the video a mention of his current business venture POW! Entertainment):
The 16 year-old Cleveland, an avid comic book fan whose friends lobbied Lee to make the video, remains in critical but stable condition. A teacher at the school also suffered minor wounds to the head. Shooting suspect Bryan Oliver, also 16 years-old, will be tried as an adult after entering a plea of not guilty earlier this week to two counts of premeditated attempted murder and three counts of assault with a firearm.