Pacino86845 wrote:Man, that's too bad Shane. I really don't know much about Kirby though, just wait 'til Dennis gets here.
What is it that made New Gods your favorite Kirby book?
thedoglippedone wrote:Shane, have you checked out Eternals or Galactic Bounty Hunters?
ONeillSG1 wrote:Shane, this is somewhat off topic:
I was looking at this av and thought of something that would make it so much more cooler-- Take out the brick wall and put in the TARDIS.
You love the Who right? What better way to show it than to HUG IT OUT??!?!
Just a thought.
Ju? wrote:Here we go again. How is it I do an Arthur Adams Appreciation Thread and it gets locked, but he can do one for Jack Kirby?
DennisMM wrote:I understand Buster's opinion completely. Don't have to like the man's art to understand his importance. I hate most post-'60s Ditko art but he brought something to comics no one else ever did.
DennisMM wrote:Ju? wrote:Here we go again. How is it I do an Arthur Adams Appreciation Thread and it gets locked, but he can do one for Jack Kirby?
Because Jack Kirby is a legend, a god of comics. There is a successful magazine devoted solely to his work. Adams is great but largely inconsequential in the history of the field.
Twenty years from now some older comics fans will say, "Arthur Adams was really talented. Too bad he didn't work much after the '80s." Someone might write a magazine article about him or mention him in a book about the comics artists of the late 20th century. Kirby was one of (and remains one of) the most influential comics creators in the world and will be remembered, discussed and deconstructed when all of us, including young Bean, are dead.
That's the difference.
DennisMM wrote:I understand Buster's opinion completely. Don't have to like the man's art to understand his importance. I hate most post-'60s Ditko art but he brought something to comics no one else ever did.
Ju? wrote:I see you have missed my point completely. I have the utmost respect for Jack Kirby. If it wasn't for him, superheroes would still have dots for eyes and no definition. His artwork has inspired many mock superhero cartoons and video games as well, ex: Freedom Force for PC, etc.
Here's my point; if I want to make a thread about my appeciation of Art Adams' work, it should be acceptable if another can make a thread about another artist. It has nothing to do with who the thread is about, but what the thread is about.
unikrunk wrote:I still want to know more about the unofficial Jack Kirby, and where the frig is his thread?
/I am not going anywhere. I want answers, dammit.
//And I checked, Vic, and it was not Herc
Ju? wrote:If you wanna debate Arthur Adams' influence, ask J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira, as well as others. As a matter of fact, it is actually quite evident in Campbell's style. By the way, the "end of discussion" shit like your my father doesn't fly with me. It's unnecessary, and if you feel like complaining to the administrators to ban me 'cause I called you out, feel free to do so. I was just voicing my opinion.
NRAMA: During the battle scenes in #6, you spent a surprising amount of time on Tawky Tawny. A lot of fans enjoyed the moment where he defeated Kalibak. So, the question, why was that moment important for you to include while other significant heroes were isolated or did not get big moments?
GM: There was quite a heavy focus on the Marvel Family in Final Crisis so Tawny was part of that just as he was part of the mash-up of Kirby and the DCU that drew me to this project. I couldn’t resist drawing a connection between Prince Tuftan’s tiger tribe from Kamandi and Tawky Tawny. It just seemed right. Pure comics poetry.
NRAMA: The Satellite scene and Justifiers attacking in modified TIE fighters? Are you stealing something back from George Lucas?
GM: Yes. This wasn’t my idea – I asked for generic space shuttles in the script - but it does seem appropriate, given how much of Star Wars echoes ‘New Gods’ (although Star Wars just can’t come close to Kirby’s transcendental vision. The Force doesn’t even have a Wall! Real fans out there will of course be familiar with the He-Man film, Masters of the Universe, which is the closest any movie has so far come to copying New Gods outright. They even have the Boom Tube, while Skeletor is played as Darkseid and He-man is very obviously Orion).
Charles Hatfield wrote:Kirby's Fourth World: An Appreciation
Written by & © Charles Hatfield
From Jack Kirby Collector #6
Beginning slyly with Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, Jack Kirby's "Fourth World" line (1970-1973) unleashed an astounding surge of creative energy which represented Kirby at his professional zenith. Jimmy Olsen, New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Forever People formed an eccentric, arguably brilliant, mythos which irrevocably changed the horizons of superhero comics. Whenever I reread or think back to Kirby's Fourth World, three distinguishing aspects of the tetralogy always come to mind: its originality of conception, its variety, and its urgent subtext.
Structurally, the Fourth World was unprecedented: it introduced several new series, all centered on a single premise, all at once. This approach has since been imitated numerous times within mainstream comics (for example, in Epic's short-lived Shadowline saga, or more recently in superhero lineups from Malibu, Dark Horse, Milestone, and others). At the time it was a logical extension of the intertextual continuity Kirby and Stan Lee had pioneered at Marvel in the 1960s; yet the Fourth World went Marvel one better, by offering several variations on the same theme simultaneously.
The basic conflict behind the Fourth World (Apokolips vs. New Genesis) perfectly distilled the dualism already inherent in Kirby and Lee's X-Men (with its good mutant/bad mutant theme). Kirby must have realized that such a conflict was too big, too promising, to be limited to a single book, so he took the next logical step - he launched several new series at once. The consequences of this step are still being felt today.
Originality was also evident in Kirby's arsenal of ideas and gimmicks. Devices like the Boom Tube, Metron's Mobius Chair, the Mountain of Judgment, and, best of all, the omnipresent Mother Box, offered vivid symbols of human/machine interdependence. Bizarre beings such as Mantis, the Deep Six, the Bugs, and the Black Racer suggested that Kirby had been breeding characters in the back of his mind for years. Settings such as Armagetto, Supertown, the Habitat, and Zoomway offer breathtaking vistas and endless narrative possibilities, while the cosmic mystery of the Source, and the overarching menace of Anti-Life, gave the story a weird, mythic urgency
Another notable aspect of the Fourth World is its variety. While innovative in structure, the lineup allowed Kirby to revisit familiar genres: Jimmy Olsen and especially Forever People revived the Simon & Kirby kid gang formula, while Mister Miracle recreated the familiar "acrobatic hero" type which S&K brought to life with such characters as Captain America, the Sandman, Manhunter, and Stuntman.
The Fourth World in fact revitalized these classic Kirby formulas. The Forever People trumped the S&K kid gang premise by dispensing with the usual adult chaperone (e.g., the Guardian in The Newsboy Legion, Rip Carter in Boy Commandos) and replacing him with the Infinity Man, a superbeing who appeared whenever the Forever People joined together around their Mother Box and uttered the key word "Taaru!" Infinity Man functioned much as the Guardian had in the Newsboy Legion's adventures, but did not seem much like a fatherly protector. Rather, Infinity Man seemed a composite of the Forever People themselves, a mysterious being summing up,the power and appeal of the whole group. The character was a brilliant stroke.
Mister Miracle took S&K's acrobatic hero and gave him a new gimmick, one perfectly appropriate to Kirby's flare for balletic action: he was an escape artist! Scott Free's struggle to break free from his past was symbolically reenacted in each adventure by his daring escapes and stunts. Seldom has a superhero's ability or gimmick seemed so psychologically apt.
The Fourth World's flagship title, The New Gods, represented something new. While its ostensible hero was Orion, and its central conflict the clash between Darkseid and Orion (a father-son conflict, as it turned out), the book's title allowed Kirby to focus occasionally on other characters - the bug Forager, for example, in the splendid two-parter about Mantis' invasion of Earth (#s 9-10), or Highfather and Darkseid himself in the classic "The Pact" (#7). New Gods was the most innovative of the Fourth World titles, and flexible enough to give scope to Kirby's restless imagination.
On rereading the Fourth World books, it's clear that Kirby's whole mind was engaged in the project. These comics represented Kirby's boldest bid to turn the superhero genre into a vehicle for ideas. New Gods and its companion titles were about something: the dualism of the Fourth World's premise allowed Kirby to use his heroes allegorically, to represent basic issues which obviously mattered to him very much. The not-so-subtle subtext of the Fourth World line gives it much of its urgency and character.
The Fourth World books suggest that the essence of human life is choice, and that Anti-Life is the negation of choice - absolute domination. (Forever People No. 5: "If someone possesses absolute control over you - you're not really alive!") Darkseid, in his quest to discover the Anti-Life Equation, becomes Kirby's ultimate totalitarian villain, a tyrant determined to bend the universe to his will; in contrast, the gods of New Genesis become champions of human freedom. This conflict between control and freedom gives the Fourth World books their peculiar urgency. Clearly, Kirby believed in this struggle: no matter how outlandish the concepts, these comics are in dead earnest, and are refreshingly uncondescending.
Subsequent revisions of Kirby have reinterpreted the fundamental conflict of the Fourth World along very different lines: Jim Starlin's Cosmic Odyssey, for instance, interpreted Anti-Life as a malevolent, sentient force, while J.M. DeMatteis' Forever People revival made Kirby's heroes champions of order over chaos. Neither one of these revampings is satisfactory, and in fact the cosmology imposed by DeMatteis is exactly wrong: in Kirby's Fourth World books, Darkseid did not represent chaos but order - suffocating order, robbing its subjects of choice and therefore life. Granted, Darkseid and his minions evoked chaos in their assaults on Earth, but with one ultimate aim: to ferret out the secret of Anti-Life and thus dominate all living things. In sharp contrast, characters such as the Forever People and Mister Miracle represented the possibility of radical freedom (a point nicely underscored in the 1987 Mister Miracle one-shot by Mark Evanier and Steve Rude).
Tellingly, Kirby's champions are outsiders even on New Genesis - the Forever People are restless, Scott Free earthbound, and Orion too warlike to enjoy the peace of Supertown. The premise of the Fourth World requires these heroes to come to Earth: as ever, Kirby's concern is humankind, and his battleground our own backyard.
Characteristically, the heroes of New Genesis are mostly youths, representing hope, energy, and enthusiasm. Kirby's identification with kids made itself strongly felt throughout the Fourth World line, most notably in Forever People and Jimmy Olsen - which broke new ground for mainstream comics by making heroes of "hippie" characters (e.g., the Forever People themselves, or the superscientific Hairies in Jimmy Olsen, who "live in harmony with whatever and whoever they contact"). Not surprisingly, some ambivalence about youthful rebellion survives in these books - particularly in Jimmy Olsen, with its covers emphasizing generational conflict between Jimmy and Superman - yet for Kirby to create such characters as the Forever People suggests a daring and sympathetic imagination, trying to keep pace with the youth culture of the time. These youthful characters perfectly embody the idea of freedom which underlies Kirby's saga.
Like much of Kirby's work, the Fourth World suggests a largely untutored yet fiercely active mind, ever searching, always looking for ways to communicate grand ideas. Arguably, the Fourth World mythos was Kirby's boldest attempt to personify abstractions, to turn a battle of ideas into rip-roaring adventure. Kirby was fully engaged, heart and mind, in this effort - it's a damn shame he did not have the opportunity to see this dream through to the end while at the height of his creative powers.
Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes wrote:
The Walt Disney Company’s proposed $4-billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment may come with a headache: a brand-new superhero copyright dispute.
Heirs to the comic-book artist Jack Kirby, who has been credited as the co-creator of characters and stories behind Marvel mainstays like the “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four,” among many others, last week sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Marvel, Disney, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and others who have been making films and other forms of entertainment based on the characters.
The legal notices expressed an intent to regain copyrights to some creations as early as 2014, according to a statement from Toberoff & Associates, a Los Angeles firm that helped win a court ruling last year returning a share of the copyright in Superman to heirs of the character’s co-creator, Jerome Siegel.
Reached by telephone on Sunday, Mr. Toberoff declined to elaborate on the statement. A spokeswoman for Marvel had no immediate comment. Disney said in a statement, “The notices involved are an attempt to terminate rights seven to 10 years from now, and involve claims that were fully considered in the acquisition.” Fox, Sony, Paramount and Universal had no comment.
Marvel shareholders must still approve the sale of the company to Disney, which is already battling criticism from some Wall Street analysts that Marvel comes with too messy an array of rights agreements. The worry is that Disney will have a hard time immediately executing a coordinated exploitation of Marvel’s various brands.
Sony has the film rights to Spider-Man in perpetuity, for instance, while Fox has the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Paramount has a distribution agreement for Marvel’s next few self-produced movies, including a second “Iron Man” film. Meanwhile, Hasbro has certain toy rights and Universal holds Florida theme park rights to Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, among other characters.
Mr. Kirby, who died in 1994, worked with the writer-editor Stan Lee to create many of the characters that in the last decade have become some of the most valuable in a Hollywood that hungers for super-heroes. Mr. Kirby was involved with “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Mighty Thor,” “Iron Man,” “Spider-Man,” and “The Avengers,” among others.
The window for serving notice of termination on the oldest of the properties opened several years ago, and will remain open for some time under the law. But Disney’s announced purchase gives a new reason for anyone with claims on Marvel to stake out a position.
Under copyright law, the author or his heirs can begin a process to regain copyrights a certain period of years after the original grant. If Mr. Kirby’s four children were to gain the copyright to a co-created character, they might become entitled to a share of profits from films or other properties using it. They might also find themselves able to sell rights to certain characters independently of Marvel, Disney, or the various studios that have licensed the Marvel properties for their hit films.
In July, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that Warner Brothers and its DC Comics unit had not violated rights of the Siegel heirs in handling internal transactions related to Superman, but an earlier ruling had already granted the heirs a return of their share in the copyright. In the late 1990s, Mr. Toberoff represented a television writer, Gilbert Ralston, who sued Warner over the rights to the film “Wild, Wild West.” The suit was ultimately settled.
Copyright issues have become increasingly difficult for Hollywood, as it continues to trade on characters and stories that were created decades ago, but are now subject to deadlines and expiration dates under federal copyright law.
Graeme McMillan wrote:It's been confirmed that that Jack Kirby's heirs are, indeed, including Spider-Man and supporting characters in their list of Marvel characters that they want the rights to. The only problem with that? Well, Kirby didn't really create the character.
The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog confirmed Spider-Man's inclusion, and mentions that, although the character first appeared in a story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Kirby was "key in the character's early development." But how key, exactly?
Borys Kit and Matthew Belloni wrote:The heirs of Jack Kirby aren't merely trying to wrest control of such iconic superheroes as Spider-Man, Hulk and X-Men from Marvel and its new, possibly nervous owners at the Walt Disney Co.
We got our hands on two of the 45 notices of termination served under the Copyright Act last week on Marvel, Disney, Sony, Universal, Fox, Paramount and others, and the demands are potentially much broader than has been reported.
The copyright termination notices pertaining to Spider-Man and Fantastic Four are written to recapture control of most of the well-known characters in each mythology, to the extent that Kirby contributed to them.
First, some backstory: Comics fans know Kirby's work as intimately as their Spidey Underoos. Even though the Webslinger's origins are generally credited to Stan Lee and reclusive artist Steve Ditko, Kirby was key in the character's early development in Marvel¹s pages. Lee first approached Kirby, with whom he had already created Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Hulk, among others, to help flesh out the concept and initially draw the comic.
The reasons Kirby didn't end up drawing the book are lost in the mists of comic history, with some claiming Lee didn't like Kirby's more muscular depiction and others believing Lee was just too busy. (Kirby did end up drawing the cover to Spider-Man's first appearance, "Amazing Fantasy" #15.)
According to several accounts, Kirby, with his Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, did create a character called the Silver Spider, whose alter ego was an orphaned boy living with two elderly people, and that character was morphed into Spider-Man. Other accounts have the Silver Spider becoming the Fly for another comic company.
Regardless, the Spider-Man copyright termination notice filed last week by Kirby¹s four children lists Amazing Fantasy #15 as a work that belongs to Kirby. But included on the list of possible characters and story elements that should be recaptured by Kirby¹s heirs are Aunt May, Uncle Ben, J. Jonah Jameson, Flash Thompson and the Daily Bugle, as well as villains the Chameleon, the Vulture, the Tinkerer and the Lizard. Many of those characters were not originally published until 9 to 12 months after Spider-Man's first appearance and are considered to be Lee-Ditko creations.
The characters appear in a footnote of the termination notice and probably are included as a precautionary measure to make sure Kirby's heirs don't leave anything on the table. But their inclusion raises the stakes in what is likely going to be a heated back-and-forth between Kirby attorney Marc Toberoff and the legal firepower of five studios.
Under U.S. law, creators or their heirs can in certain situations "terminate" copyright grants and recapture rights. Last year Toberoff helped the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel successfully recapture many of the character's original copyrights from Warner Bros. and DC Comics.
If successful, the Kirby family could claim copyright ownership starting at the 56 year mark--as early as 2018 for Spider-Man and 2017 for Fantastic Four, according to the notices of termination. With copyright currently extending to a 95-year term, the family would be free to license and exploit the character for a long, long time.
Plus, with Kirby's creations including villains and key supporting characters in Marvel comics, more termination notices are expected in the coming months.
Today Marvel issued only a brief statement on the matter: "Marvel received the termination notices and is reviewing the information and has no additional comment at this time."
Leckomaniac wrote:The idea of children trying to get money for their father's creation kind of rubs me the wrong way. It is one thing if Kirby had wanted this. That I can understand. But his children trying to profit off of something they had no hand in? I don't know how I feel about that.
I just don't feel as cut and dry as I do when the actual creators are fighting for what is theirs.
Brian Cronin wrote:COMIC URBAN LEGEND: Masters of the Universe was a reworked Fourth World movie.
A significant number of fans of the film Masters of the Universe suggest that the film is really a reworked Fourth World film.
The film features characters that seem like they have analogues from Jack Kirby’s classic Fourth World series of comics: Orion (He-Man), Kalibak (Beast Man), Kanto (Blade), and Darkseid (Skeletor).
The way that they travel in the film from Eternia to Earth is essentially a Boom Tube, and there’s a lot of other similar touches.
However, the film itself was not intended to be literally a reworked Fourth World, although the intent WAS to make the film a tribute to Jack Kirby - just a tribute to ALL of his work, not just the Fourth World.
Writer/artist John Byrne was quoted in Comic Shop News #497 as saying, “The best New Gods movie, IMHO, is ´Masters of the Universe´. I even corresponded with the director, who told me this was his intent, and that he had tried to get Kirby to do the production designs, but the studio nixed it.” This is probably where most of the confusion comes from, for while Byrne is basically correct, his statement that the intent of the film was to be a New Gods movie does not match what the director, Gary Goddard, wrote to Byrne in the letter column of Next Men #26, in response to a comment Byrne had made in an earlier column about the similarities between the film and the Fourth World comics.
In that column, Goddard wrote:Gary Goddard wrote:As the director of Masters of the Universe, it was a pleasure to see that someone got it. Your comparison of the film to Kirby’s New Gods was not far off. In fact, the storyline was greatly inspired by the classic Fantastic Four/Doctor Doom epics, The New Gods and a bit of Thor thrown in here and there. I intended the film to be a “motion picture comic book,” though it was a tough proposition to sell to the studio at the time. “Comics are just for kids,” they thought. They would not allow me to hire Jack Kirby who I desperately wanted to be the conceptual artist for the picture…
I grew up with Kirby’s comics (I’ve still got all my Marvels from the first issue of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through the time Kirby left) and I had great pleasure meeting him when he first moved to California. Since that time I enjoyed the friendship of Jack and Roz and was lucky enough to spend many hours with Jack, hearing how he created this character and that one, why a villain has to be even more powerful than a hero, and on and on. Jack was a great communicator, and listening to him was always an education. You might be interested to know that I tried to dedicate Masters of Universe to Jack Kirby in the closing credits, but the studio took the credit out.
Still, whether the film was literally a Fourth World remake or not, the devotion to the work of Jack Kirby remains, and it is quite interesting on Goddard’s part.
Thanks to Bright Raven for finding me the right issue of Next Men and Ryan Day for sending me a copy of the letter. Thanks to yo go re for suggesting this one (it was on the to-do list anyways, but I figure, might as well mention it).
Matt Brady wrote:GM: Yes. This wasn’t my idea – I asked for generic space shuttles in the script - but it does seem appropriate, given how much of Star Wars echoes ‘New Gods’ (although Star Wars just can’t come close to Kirby’s transcendental vision. The Force doesn’t even have a Wall! Real fans out there will of course be familiar with the He-Man film, Masters of the Universe, which is the closest any movie has so far come to copying New Gods outright. They even have the Boom Tube, while Skeletor is played as Darkseid and He-man is very obviously Orion).
Matt Brady wrote:
NRAMA: Just to summarize with the New Gods, they've left earth and have taken up residence in Universe 51 in their original togs?
GM: No, the togs are a little shinier and more like J.G. Jones’ updated designs from the Final Crisis sketchbook. They now have a newly-fashioned Kirby-flavoured Earth to deal with as they slowly return from ‘death’ to their full power and majesty. Right now, they’re like tribal gods on a primitive planet. Clash of the Titans, dude!
Matt Brady wrote:
NRAMA: Likewise the multiple timelines. Would a linear narrative resulted in a different story in the end?
GM: Final Crisis is absolutely linear until the last issue when time folds down on itself and even then it’s pretty straightforward A to B to C. A different writer would have resulted in a different story perhaps!
NRAMA: Superman and Darkseid - for those of us who didn't attend night classes on New Genesis...despite being shot through the heart, Darkseid is still alive, he's taking aim at Orion to basically start the whole story, and the Flashes lead the Black racer to him...and that kills him? I feel a little slow here, but when did he start falling through the multiverses?
GM: Again, I don’t think you need to know anything about New Genesis or any other information apart from what’s in the story. Darkseid wasn’t shot in the heart. We all know Batman doesn’t kill people, hasn’t killed people for 70 years and isn’t about to start here. It’s a big enough deal for Batman to pick up a gun. He winged Turpin knowing that the Radion in the bullet would be enough to poison Darkseid’s divine essence. Radion only kills gods after all. It slays ideas. After that shot, Darkseid is dying, just as someone with radiation poisoning might slowly expire, as Superman explains in #7. The Black Racer drags him struggling away into oblivion over the course of that issue until nothing remains but the fading, ghost-echoes of his malice.
Darkseid started falling through the universe after the event we experienced as The Death of The New Gods. He fell backwards through time and wound up in a human body, on Earth, in the Mister Miracle series back in 2005.
Marvel announced today it is seeking a judicial declaration saying that the Kirby heirs' copyright claims are invalid:
Subsidiaries of Marvel Entertainment, LLC today filed suit in federal court in Manhattan seeking a declaration that notices of termination of copyright assignments served by the heirs of long-time Marvel artist Jack Kirby are invalid.
Last September, attorneys acting for the Kirby heirs sent 45 notices to Marvel seeking to terminate purported assignments by Kirby of copyright interests in Marvel Super Hero characters such as X-Men and Fantastic Four. Kirby's heirs are claiming that from 2014 to 2019 various rights supposedly transferred to Marvel will revert to them. The Marvel lawsuit asserts that those claims are baseless because all of Kirby's contributions to Marvel's publications, like those of other comic book writers and artists of the same period, were works made for hire, making Marvel the sole owner of the copyrights.
"The notices filed by the heirs are an attempt to rewrite the history of Kirby's relationship with Marvel," said John Turitzin, Marvel's General Counsel. "Everything about Kirby's relationship with Marvel shows that his contributions were works made for hire and that all the copyright interests in them belong to Marvel."
Under federal copyright law, works that were created at the "instance and expense" of a publisher during the time Kirby was a creator for Marvel were "works made for hire" and owned by that publisher. If, for example, Marvel gave a writer or artist an assignment to create a comic book story populated with new characters or to illustrate a comic book story with depictions of its characters â€“ and paid the writer or artist for carrying out the assignment â€“ the publisher, not the writer or artist, would own the copyright. All of Kirby's contributions to Marvel comic books the heirs are claiming for themselves fall into this category.
Marvel editors determined which publications Kirby would work on, just as they did with all the other artists and writers engaged to work on the publications, and always retained full editorial control. In addition, Kirby was paid for his contributions. As a result, all of Kirby's contributions were solely owned by Marvel, which was standard practice in the comic book publishing industry.
Kirby's situation at Marvel is completely different from the facts that gave rise to the Superman litigation. The initial Superman story was written and illustrated by its creators well before they had any business relationship with its ultimate publisher.
"The purpose of the lawsuit filed today is simply to set the record straight and obtain a judicial declaration that the Kirby termination notices have no effect," said Mr. Turitzin.
Source: Marvel Entertainment
DAVE ITZKOFF wrote:The characteristics of a Jack Kirby illustration are easily distinguished: extravagantly costumed heroes and nefarious villains locked in titanic struggles; foreshortened fists, feet and muscles that seem to pop off the page; intricately detailed settings meant to conjure the ancient past or suggest the distant future.
His style made Mr. Kirby a sought-after talent at DC Comics, now a piece of the Time Warner empire, and at Marvel Comics, a recent acquisition of the Walt Disney Company. At Marvel in particular he played a crucial role in creating superheroes like the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and the X-Men — work that is now at the center of a property dispute between the heirs of Mr. Kirby, who died in 1994, and Marvel and Disney.
Those same signature design elements are also vividly on display in hundreds of illustrations for never-produced cartoon shows and toy lines that Mr. Kirby created in the 1980s for the animation studio Ruby-Spears Productions — work that thus far does not belong to any of the media conglomerates and that has been seen by few people.
Now, a partnership between that studio’s founders, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, and Sid and Marty Krofft, the longtime children’s entertainment producers (“H. R. Pufnstuf,” “Land of the Lost”), is planning to revive these unseen Kirby characters in as many forms as possible. It’s a proposition that faces challenges as the studios scour the landscape for the next comic book or cartoon character they can transform into a franchise, but also one that has piqued the interest of some powerful Hollywood players.
“I love comic books, but this is a treasure,” said Ariel Z. Emanuel, the co-chief executive of the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agency, who is representing these Kirby works for Ruby-Spears and the Kroffts. “It’s like a boat sank at the bottom of the ocean, and all of a sudden you’ve uncovered it.”
Mr. Kirby started working for California’s animation studios in the late 1970s after becoming disillusioned with comic-book companies in New York that he said he felt did not give him fair payment or credit for his creations. After a stint with Hanna-Barbera, he was hired by Ruby-Spears in 1980, first to design characters and backgrounds for its Saturday morning action series “Thundarr the Barbarian,” then to draw presentation boards for new projects.
“Many times, he didn’t have enough to do, or there weren’t enough assignments,” Mr. Spears said. “He was such a prolific guy that he would, on his own, just start sketching out some thoughts.”
Among the far-flung, unrealized projects that Mr. Kirby helped create or contributed to were “Roxie’s Raiders,” an Indiana Jones-style serial about a female adventurer and her allies; “Golden Shield,” about an ancient Mayan hero seeking to save earth in the apocalyptic year 2012; and “The Gargoids,” about scientists who gain superpowers after being infected by an alien virus.
Though none of these series made it past the planning stages, Mr. Kirby was glad to have gainful employment, health insurance for himself and his family and a job where he felt he was respected.
“He’d walk in, and all the young animators would fuss over him and salute him,” said Mark Evanier, the author of “Kirby: King of Comics” and a television writer who has worked for Ruby-Spears and the Kroffts. “It was fun for him to go in there, whereas in the past, when he’d gone to a comic-book company’s offices, it was a contentious atmosphere and a lot of emotional baggage.”
In an e-mail message, Lisa Kirby, one of Mr. Kirby’s daughters, wrote, “My dad always spoke well of Ruby-Spears, and that they treated him fairly.”
For more than two decades, the work that Mr. Kirby created for Ruby-Spears — an estimated 600 production boards — remained boxed up and unseen while the studio was unsure what to do with it.
“I’m going, ‘Joe, why don’t we just take this stuff and give it away?’ ” Mr. Spears said. But Mr. Ruby, he said, was “absolutely insistent” that “someday, someplace, somebody’s going to want this stuff.”
Last fall Mr. Ruby and Mr. Spears brought the properties to the Kroffts, who have begun adapting their vintage television shows into feature films, and who also saw potential in the Kirby material.
“This is a 20-year business for somebody,” Marty Krofft said.
Unlike the work that Mr. Kirby did for Marvel Comics — whose ownership may be decided by a lawsuit filed last month against Marvel and Disney by the artists’ heirs, who seek the copyrights to many of his lucrative Marvel characters — the control of his animation art is more clear-cut.
During his time with Ruby-Spears, Mr. Kirby was employed under a work-for-hire agreement, which means that his work is the property of the studio, lawyers for the partnership said. Marc Toberoff, a copyright lawyer representing the Kirbys in their suit against Marvel and Disney, said that he reviewed Mr. Kirby’s agreement with Ruby-Spears and that he believed any art produced under it was work for hire.
This affords Ruby-Spears and the Kroffts a wide berth to turn their Kirby properties into movies, television shows, comics, videos games and more — all of which they intend to pursue.
They will face steep competition in a marketplace already saturated with established (and not-so-established) comics characters that major media companies have spent years snapping up for their own development purposes. Compared with decades-old franchises like Batman, Superman and Captain America (the last of which Mr. Kirby created with Joe Simon), unknown properties like Roxie’s Raiders and Golden Shield have only Mr. Kirby’s pedigree to distinguish them.
For Mr. Emanuel, that is more than enough to get behind this cache of rediscovered material.
“You can’t go wrong,” he said. “Just close your eyes and throw a dart. And I only saw 5 percent of it.”
Eriq Gardner wrote:After spending $4 billion to acquire Marvel Entertainment last year, the Walt Disney Co. is now weighing in on a case that threatens some of the company's most lucrative intellectual property.
On Monday, Disney filed a memo in support of Marvel's attempts to dismiss copyright claims by the Jack Kirby estate. Family members of the comic book icon are attempting to terminate a copyright grant to Marvel on such valuable works as Iron Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man.
How much money is at stake in this case? Disney doesn't say, asking a New York District Court to hold off on ordering an accounting of profits on these franchises because Kirby's underlying copyright ownership claim hasn't been validated yet.
The court papers also take up such issues as whether Kirby's original artwork should be turned over, whether Kirby should have been credited in connection with "The Incredible Hulk" and "X-Men" films. Disney also believes the Kirby estate claims are barred by statute of limitations.
Ted Johnson wrote:As thousands converge on Comic-Con July 22-25, there's a long gestating question that increasingly is in need of an answer in Hollywood: Just who owns the superheroes?
Studios have invested hundreds of millions -- and have reaped billions -- in bringing Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and many more to life. But heirs to some of the characters' creators are exercising a provision of copyright law that may let them win back some of the rights held by Marvel, DC Comics and others.
The litigation involves many of the crown jewels of the comicbook world. It has raised the possibility that studios in the not-too-distant future will have to contend with unwanted partners who will lay claim to a share of the proceeds of future comics, movies and TV series. The legal morass alone could have the paralyzing power of Kryptonite, tying up the heroes in court.
At the very least, it's delivered plenty of murkiness, to the point where it makes a difference who drew the Incredible Hulk as gray (his first incarnation) and who later made him green.
Just take the case of Superman. A federal judge has split up key parts of the mythology. DC Comics and its parent Warner Bros. still control many key parts of the storyline developed after his debut in 1938, such as Superman's ability to fly, Kryptonite and the character of Lex Luthor, not to mention international rights and trademarks.
But the heirs to co-creator and writer Jerry Siegel, according to a 2008 opinion from U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Larson, have a claim on such things as Superman's distinctive blue leotard, a red cape and boots, his ability to leap tall buildings and repel bullets and to run faster than a locomotive, as well as other significant aspects of his origins. And there is still the other piece of the puzzle: The heirs to co-creator and artist Joe Shuster, Siegel's partner, are seeking to reclaim their share of the copyright as of 2013, and if they do, that could give the two families a big say in the Man of Steel.
Aside from a radically realtered version of Superman, one side may have a tough time exploiting the character without the cooperation of the other. As Columbia Law School professor Jane C. Ginsburg puts it, "What this really means is that Warner Bros. and the heirs can stymie each other."
Another suit, filed by the estate of artist Jack Kirby last year, involves a much greater breadth of material: They are seeking ownership or co-ownership in dozens of characters controlled by Marvel Entertainment, including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four. Marvel and its new corporate parent, Disney, are challenging the claims, and it may end in a long showdown in court.
For the studios, their biggest enemy may not be Marc Toberoff, the aggressive attorney who is representing the heirs and reps to the Shuster, Siegel and Kirby estates, but the calendar. At the heart of the cases is a provision of a 1976 revision of the Copyright Act that gives creators and their heirs the ability, under certain conditions, to reclaim ownership of characters after a passage of time, regardless of whether they had assigned their rights over at some point in their careers.
Roughly speaking, they can terminate their prior grant of rights after the expiration of the original 56-year copyright term. There are a number of caveats, the chief among them that it does not apply to works "made for hire," which is at the heart of the defense for many publishers and studios. It also applies to works before 1978.
Because so many characters were created in the post-war boomer era of the 1950s, when there was an explosion of creativity to cater to youth and teenage audiences, studios are bound to wrestle with estates and heirs for years to come.
If anything, they want clarity.
"These are incredibly smart people," says attorney Carole Handler of Lathrop & Gage, who specializes in the area, having represented media companies. "You have people who understand these issues who are running the studios. They want to be comfortable, as they are making a motion picture, that they are the party that has a right to exploit a character."
But there's another provision of the Copyright Act that stands to complicate even further the ability of studios to capitalize on works of the past. That provision will let creators of works on or after Jan. 1, 1978, terminate deals (with some restrictions) in which they transferred ownership of material they created to a company. This is likely to set off "a flood of termination notices by artists seeking to regain rights previously granted to record labels, book publishers, advertising agencies and other content owners," attorneys James Trigg and Sabina Vayner wrote in a recent article on Law Technology News.
This has been particularly true for songwriters, and is expected to create friction with record labels that depend on the exploitation of oldies. (Boomers, take note: the '70s are well within that category.)
But for the time being, comicbook characters are at the forefront of the legal tussle, partly because it comes at the very moment that studios are mining the past for franchise fortunes.
The decades-old stories of comic creators selling off their rights for a pittance is the stuff of fan lore. Likewise, the legal machinations are fast attaining a compelling narrative of their own. For example, Siegel and Shuster created Superman in the mid-'30s and sold off the rights a few years later, anxious to get it published, and later signed settlement agreements with DC Comics reaffirming the company's rights. Repped by lawyer Toberoff, the Siegel heirs were able to recapture the copyright to Action Comics No. 1, published in 1938, and other early strips and comicbooks. "Superman's name, his alter ego, his compatriots, his origins, his mission to serve as a champion of the oppressed, or his heroic abilities in general, do not remain within [DC Comics and Warner Bros.'] sole possession to exploit," Larson wrote in his decision. DC Comics and Warner Bros. are appealing Larson's ruling, and also challenge the Shuster estate's efforts to obtain rights in 2013.
The latest twist in the Superman case came in May, when Warner Bros.' new legal team, led by Daniel Petrocelli, filed suit against Toberoff claiming that he had wrestled a stake in the heirs' claimed rights for himself, and that he had essentially poisoned the studios' relationships with the heirs to gain his own control over the copyrights.
Toberoff denies this, calling the charges "gutter tactics" designed to intimidate the heirs into selling back rights they have recaptured at "a distressed price." He's hired Richard Kendall, a prominent attorney who has represented major studios and networks, to represent him.
The suit reflects just how hard-fought the battle has become, and how intent the studio is in clearing the way for future Superman projects after 2013. Warner Bros. has been trying to line up key talent to get a Man of Steel project off the ground well before then.
The Kirby heirs' claims against Marvel and Disney raise even greater entanglements.
Last September, just after Disney struck a deal to acquire the comic giant, Toberoff, on behalf of the Kirby heirs, sent 45 notices of copyright termination to Marvel, Disney and other studios that have been using the characters (films, TV, theme-park attractions, etc.), with some of his rights being recaptured as early as 2014.
Included are characters that Kirby created or co-created between 1958 and 1963, such as the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and the Avengers, but also the work in more than 200 comicbooks.
When the works first appeared, the landscape for comics was far different. As the heirs point out in their suit, Marvel's predecessor, Atlas Comics, had a tiny office and was having a tough go of it. In part because of government concerns in the mid-1950s over juvenile delinquency and a system of self-censorship via the Comics Code Authority, there was a severe contraction in the business, and plenty of pressure to come up with something new.
As such, a big part of the dispute in the Kirby case has to do with just how he produced his work for publication. Marvel claims simply that it was a "work for hire," negating his heirs' efforts to recapture copyright.
James W. Quinn, who is representing Marvel, plans to file a motion for summary judgment following the discovery phase. "This is not the Superman case," he says. "This is as clear as can be that these are works made for hire."
The heirs, however, claim that Kirby worked "solely on a freelance basis out of his own home," and was not paid a fixed salary or wage.
Each case is so intricate, even the definition of "work for hire" has been in dispute. There's the case of Captain America. Joe Simon and Kirby were listed as authoring the first Captain America comicbook in 1940, and Simon long disputed the ownership of the character until he made a settlement with Marvel in 1969, stating that it was indeed a "work for hire." But that was before the 1976 revision of the Copyright Act. As Simon later sought to recapture the copyright, he argued that his settlement agreement was no longer valid, and in 2002, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him. Their reasoning: You can't just say that something is a "work for hire" after the fact, if there is evidence that it isn't.
Eventually, Simon settled with Marvel.
The question now is whether many of the current suits will be settled, or whether they will represent long-term, significant threats to the clarity of ownership for the characters.
The intent of the 1976 revision of the Copyright Act was to give creators an opportunity to share in the rewards of their creations after they reached their full potential. The rationale was that it was all too common for eager artists, anxious to get their material published, to sign away rights for little money so early in their careers.
Even so, as the litigation proves, claiming ownership via the Copyright Act isn't as easy as just serving notice and reaping the rewards. There's a five-year window to do it, and the courts have been sticklers to following the letter of the law.
The heirs to Edgar Rice Burroughs, for instance, sought to recapture their rights to Tarzan in 1978. But according to a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 1982, that could not stop MGM from exploiting the character because the heirs, in their notice of termination, failed to include ownership claims on five Tarzan stories. The issues were far from settled, and even in a concurring opinion, Judge Jon O. Newman hinted at the prospect of dueling versions of a character.
"The upshot is that a victory by the heirs in court will translate into higher licensing fees and royalties for those heirs," says Jack Lerner, a USC assistant professor of law and director of the school's Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic. "And it is going to translate into more litigation and legal fees for both sides."
Often lost in the legal tangle is the motive of the author or creator.
As Columbia professor Ginsburg says, "The idea of the termination right is not to wreck the business model of the intermediary exploiter; it is to give the author the chance to make more money from the work."
The implications for the cases are, in the end, about more than who gets what. They are about how, when and in what form the characters get seen.
Studios have undoubtedly mastered the delivery of superheroes to mass audiences, in ways that their creators could not have imagined.
"This is what they have done," notes Handler, who also has taught a class at USC on characters and copyright. "They have years of experience in exploiting these characters and turning things out. It is probably much more in the public interest that they continue to do that."
The consumer, she says, has an interest as well in seeing the heroes in further adventures.
"You are dealing with such worldwide recognition, and even a form of international communication, in what these characters bring to the world."
With the heirs to the creators of "Superman" reclaiming copyright, ownership of key parts of the character's mythology may be split.
A federal district court judge in 2008 already determined that the estate of co-creator Jerry Siegel recaptured its share of copyrights on Action Comics No. 1 and other early comics and books, while DC Comics still retains other elements of his story and international rights and trademarks. The estate of co-creator Joseph Shuster is seeking the other share of those early works.
Based on the judge's decision, here's a sampling of how the ownership is shaking out:
Siegel and Shuster estates: Superman's origins from another planet; his blue leotard, red cape and boots; his superhuman ability to leap tall buildings, repel bullets and run faster than a locomotive
DC Comics and Warner Bros.: Superman's ability to fly, characters Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, General Zod and Brainiac, Kryptonite
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