Eriq Gardner wrote: New York federal judge has weighed in on an important case that could be worth billions of dollars and impact the future of Iron Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, and other iconic super-hero characters.
The case involves the ongoing attempt by the estate of comic book artist Jack Kirby to terminate a copyright grant over his legendary work. After Kirby's children served 45 notices of copyright termination, Marvel Entertainment sued the estate in New York District Court, seeking a declaration that the creations were "works-made-for-hire" and not eligible for termination. The estate countersued, seeking its own declaration that the termination notices were served properly to Marvel.
Last week, New York federal judge Colleen McMahon rejected a bid by Marvel to throw out the Kirby estate's main counterclaim. The judge decided it wasn't a "redundant" claim, meaning she will soon have an opportunity to shake up Marvel's universe, if she so decides, with a potentially devastating future ruling.
But the judge's decision wasn't a complete loss for Marvel. Far from it.
The studio was successful in avoiding an accounting on how much money is potentially at stake. Judge McMahon agreed with Marvel's contention that it would be premature to adjudicate the issue before it's decided whether or not the Kirby material can be terminated.
Marvel also scored more victories in trimming counterclaims made by the Kirby estate, which is being represented by superattorney Marc Toberoff, the same guy who is giving Warner Bros. quite a few headaches over terminated rights to Superman.
Judge McMahon has ruled that the estate's attempt to get Marvel to return Kirby's original artwork is "untimely," barred by the statute of limitations. She has also thrown out Kirby's other counterclaims of breach-of-contract and violations under the Lanham Act. The estate had argued that Kirby was not credited with being the author or co-author of works that served as the basis for recent films The Incredible Hulk and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
In sum, the judge has narrowed the case to its most crucial issue. Both sides disagree about Kirby's working environment in the 1950s and 1960s when he, along with Stan Lee, conceived many of Marvel's most popular characters. The judge will soon be tasked with looking at Kirby's work history and some of the loose contracts and oral agreements that guided his efforts in those years.
Finally, Disney will be a part of this lawsuit, whether it wants to or not.
Marvel, which was purchased by Disney for $4 billion late last year, had attempted to dismiss its new corporate parent from the proceedings, shielding it from liability. Marvel had argued that the termination notices were sent a few months prior to the Disney acquisition.
However, Judge McMahon rules that it's immaterial, that Disney is now in the position to exploit Marvel's assets -- including the rights that Marvel has to Kirby-created characters -- and that Kirby's claim for declaratory relief must include Disney as well.
The Fumetto International Comics Festival at Lucerne, Switzerland hosts the exhibition Jack Kirby: The House That Jack Built, curated by Dan Nadel and myself. This exhibition is the first major retrospective of original art by Jack Kirby with over 160 works spanning from 1942 to 1985, as well featuring rare sketches and key pages from throughout Kirby’s career, which will be on display between 1 to 9 May, 2010.
Averted or otherwise, all eyes will be in the area cineplex this weekend when one of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's most beloved creations makes his bittersweet cinematic debut in Twentieth Century Fox's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." The Silver Surfer has of course been a pop culture icon for decades and numerous attempts have been made to translate his cosmic adventures into extra-comics media. Journalist James H. Burns reported on one such endeavor in the 1980s; an effort to bring the Silver Surfer to perhaps the most unexpected medium -- the musical.
Sure to be in a future edition of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, CBR News is pleased to present James H. Burns and his account of the plan to create "The Silver Surfer: The Rock Opera."
Kiel Phegley wrote:It can take a long time for something to get born, but the one person in comics who never seemed to have trouble giving birth to a new idea was Jack Kirby. Over his legendary nearly 60-year career, the King of Comics dreamed up more superheroes, cosmic gods, giant monster and wicked witches than any artist in the medium's history, and this summer Dynamite Entertainment will gather a wealth of those characters together for the first time in the epic limited series "Kirby: Genesis."
Conceived by the team of writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross (who aside from providing covers for the book will fully layout the series as well as contribute final paintings), "Genesis" is an idea years in the making. Built upon the gathering of all of Kirby's creator owned work from his '80s launches of heroes like Captain Victory and the Silver Star back through his unused sketchbooks and story notes spanning his entire career, the series has been growing creatively under the hands of the men best known for creating the award-winning "Marvels" series as well as the backbone for Busiek's "Astro City."
The floodgates on the project opened in full last August when Busiek flew to Ross' home in suburban Chicago for an intensive three-day summit to take the massive amount of Kirby material seen and unseen and shape it into a story worthy of the King's name. In the midst of the pair's planning with Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci and editor Joe Rybandt, CBR News was invited out to dinner with the creators for a first look inside their process. Talk at the table started with Busiek and Ross comparing notes on their own corporate comics work and a healthy dose of history, but once the recorders got rolling, it was all Kirby as the team opened up below on what hidden characters and concepts tied to Kirby's biggest franchises will be reinvented in "Genesis," how they've conceived a story that can bring forth an entire universe of adventure and the human element that ties the fantastic nature of Kirby's mind to the humanity in comic fans everywhere. Read on for the full discussion and an EXCLUSIVE first look at "Kirby: Genesis" #0!
The superstar painter opens up his sketchbook for a first look at the designs based on the King of Comics lost heroes for Dynamite's "Kirby Genesis," the forthcoming Kurt Busiek/Alex Ross epic.
Dynamite has provided CBR with an exclusive, extended preview of "Kirby: Genesis" #0. Written by Kurt Busiek with art by Alex Ross and Jackson Herbert & based on Jack Kirby's concepts, the issue hits May 25.
With the recent #0 issue launching Dynamite's new Jack Kirby character universe, the writer behind "Kirby: Genesis" explains how he and Alex Ross turned the real life work of the King of Comics into cosmic fiction.
In a piece titled “Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here,” Neal Kirby pays tribute to his father, the late Jack Kirby, in the process exposing some of the bitterness over the way the comics legend has been credited in recent movie adaptations: “If [you're] unfamiliar with the comics industry, and just enjoy super-hero movies, you will notice my fathers’ name on some screen credits, usually buried at the end of the movie; sometimes, as in the recent Thor release, coming third after someone who had no hand in the characters’ creation other than being the editor-in-chief’s brother. Unfortunately, for the past several years, some in the comics industry who have had the benefit of longevity have used the opportunity to claim to be the sole creator of all of Marvels’ characters. Must be great to be the last man standing. It would seem that being backed by the public relations department of a large corporation buys access into the 24/7 news cycle.”
[CO2 Comics Blog]
Mark Seifert wrote:Jack Kirby (1917-1994) was born today 94 years ago. Kirby was one of the most influential comic book artists ever, and as a big fan I’ve been pleased to see several blog posts and tweets marking the occasion already this morning. And I also think this is one of those times that a picture really is worth a thousand words, so check out the gallery below for several examples of Jack’s original artwork. There’s nothing quite like looking at a Kirby original, particularly since the comic printing capabilities in use during much of his career were very limited by today’s standards. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to check out a Kirby original up close and in person you know what I’m talking about — it’s just art board, pencil, and ink, but you can practically feel the radiation coming off the page.
Graeme McMillan wrote:If there’s one thing that a quick look at the current state of television and movies will tell you, it’s that there’s not much need for original ideas when there’s so much out there ready and waiting to be adapted, updated or just outright ripped off. That’s why we’ve decided to help in that process with a series which offers up some of the things we’d like to see being brought to big screen or small. This week’s suggestion? Kirby: Genesis.
TheButcher wrote:From AICN:
Sid & Marty Krofft team up with Ruby-Spears to develop a host of original Jack Kirby concepts - lost to the ages!!!
From The NY TIMES:
Jack Kirby’s Heroes in WaitingDAVE 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.”
Andy Khouri wrote:A father's day tribute to Jack Kirby from Dennis Culver's blog:Dennis Culver' wrote:TIE! TIE! TIE FOR DARKSEID!
A lot of people seem to think that Darkseid is the worst dad in comics but who is worse? The god of all evil or the dad that sends his son to live with the god of all evil?
Geoff Boucher wrote:Jillian Kirby, 16, never got to meet her grandfather, but she’s seen plenty of his magic — she’s seen it in the pages of classic Marvel Comics, up on the screen in “The Avengers” and most especially in the eyes of Marvel fans who meet her and find out she’s an heir of the King of Comics.
Jillian is connecting with that family magic more than ever thanks to her admirable summer project, which she calls Kirby4Heroes. It ties together Jack’s birthday (he would have been 95 on Aug. 28) and the good works of Hero Initiative (which helps comic book creators in times of financial or medical distress).
Jillian’s grandfather died in 1994 after the most illustrious career in the history of the American comic book. Kirby created or co-created Captain America, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, Doctor Doom, the Silver Surfer, the Boy Commandos, Magneto, the Black Panther, Fighting American, Darkseid, Ant-Man, the Demon, the Red Skull, Galactus, Kamandi and hundreds of other comic book characters.
Many fans are shocked to hear that the Kirby family doesn’t get a single cent when his creations are turned into toys, video games, cartoons or even a historic blockbuster film like “The Avengers” but that’s the harsh reality of work-for-hire deals that (as the sad history of Superman‘s creators reminds us) have been the norm since Day One in the superhero business.
That industry backdrop led to Hero Initiative and, now, to Jillian’s Kirby4Heroes. And what exactly is her idea? Here, let her explain…
Let’s all circle Aug. 28 on the calendar. And check back here; we hear there are more Kirby-related announcements coming in the next week or two. If you want to learn more about Kirby and his legacy, be sure to read the wonderful essay written by his son, Neal Kirby, who just happens to be Jillian’s father. Also, it’s great to wander around the digital corridors of the Kirby Museum, another worthy non-profit group that represents the Power Cosmic.
Rich Johnston wrote:So below there’s this complete sixteen page Jack Kirby story from Thor #134 story for sale. With Thor, Galactus and the first appearance of the High Evolutionary. Currently at $135,000 after 65 bids.
Or, if that’s a litle outside your price range, there’s the full 22 production pages of an unpublished Warren Ellis Ghost Rider 2099 story drawn by Salgood Sam on eBay for under a grand. And he’s using the money to fund a new comic book project…
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