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Thread: Comics Cultures

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Comics Cultures

    Let’s cut to the chase: zealots should not leave places where they’re comfortably surrounded by likeminded people to interact with other more diverse cultures, unless they’re willing to consider other point of views.

    Otherwise, terrible things happen, to them and people with whom they interact.

    To remain comfortable, they should stay insulated in the beliefs and the worlds they so strongly and resolutely embrace.

    Some zealots, however, feel compelled to go out and spread the word, whatever it is they believe to be true, and to try to persuade others that their way is the “right” way.

    I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about comics.

    This week, we’re going to have a discussion about the different cultures that exist in comics.

    Just so we know the range of possible cultures, let’s catalog our different sandboxes (in major markets, where there’s product penetration into other markets), and if anybody has ones to offer that I’m missing, feel free to offer them up for discussion.

    In the U.S.:

    • Cartoons, published in magazines
    • Cartoons, published or collected in books
    • Comic strips, syndicated in daily newspapers
    • Comic strips, in weekly newspapers
    • Comic strips, on the web
    • Comic strips, published or collected in books
    • Comic stories, published in independent comics and distributed into the direct market
    • Comic stories, published or collected in books and distributed into the direct market
    • Comic stories, published or collected in books and distributed into bookstores
    • Comic stories, published in mass market or niche-market magazines
    • Comic stories, published or collected in albums/books
    • Comic books, ash cans sold wherever
    • Comic books, privately published and sold wherever
    • Comic books, privately published and distributed into the direct market
    • Comic books, published by independent publishers and distributed into the direct market
    • Comic books, published by major comics publishers and distributed into the direct market
    • Comic books, packaged by third party to be published for the direct market
    • Manga, reprinted in volumes and distributed into bookstores
    • Manga, published in volumes and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels, published by independent publishers and distributed into the direct market
    • Graphic Novels, published by major comics publishers and distributed into the direct market
    • Graphic Novels, packaged by third parties to be published by book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels, published by independent book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels, published by major book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels, published by educational book publishers and distributed into schools
    • Graphic Novels, published as POD for sale online
    • Graphic Novel Picture books, published by book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels for young readers, published by book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels for teens & YA, published by book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Anything on cell phones

    In Europe:

    With every conceivable demographic (just so we don’t spend pages on it)…
    • Cartoons, published in magazines
    • Cartoons, published or collected in books
    • Comic stories, published in magazines
    • Comic stories, published or collected in albums/books
    • Graphic Novels, serialized in magazines
    • Graphic Novels, published or collected into albums/books
    • Graphic Novels, published by independent book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Graphic Novels, published by major book publishers and distributed into bookstores
    • Anything on cell phones

    In Asia:

    With every conceivable demographic (just so we don’t spend pages on it)…
    • Manga, serialized in magazines
    • Manga, published or collected into volumes
    • Anything on cell phones

    Whew.

    That’s a lot of sandboxes.

    Now, I want you to hold up a hand if you think that professionals in each of these comics categories and cultures generally believe the same things about rights, payment, and process.

    Okay, there’s one in the back. Yes?

    Lessee--out the door, make a right, third door on your left.

    Let’s try again: hold up a hand if you think that professionals in each of these comics categories and cultures generally believe the same things about rights, payment, and process.

    Right. Nobody. So….

    Oh, hi again. Yeah, you can return to your seat, and it’s okay to put your hand down now. What? It’s still wet and that’s why you’re waving it? I’m sure the lady in front of you just loves you for that.

    Okay, back to our topic.

    Take my word for it: all comics creators don’t have the same beliefs about what’s “right” or “wrong,” not when it comes to rights, payment, process, or who’s stronger, The Hulk or Popeye.

    That doesn’t mean everybody in any given culture agrees. There are always going to be wide ranges of opinion in every comics sub-culture, but there are still certain givens that a majority of creators embrace or accept as “the way it is.” The tricky part is that the givens--the rights, the wrongs, the “way it is”--change from one comics sub-culture to another.

    So let’s see what you know to be true, believe to be true, think might be true, or think should be true.

    Yes, that’s right--it’s Pop Quiz Time!

    Here’s what’s important: you sharing perceptions, even if you don’t really know.

    “Why is that important?” you ask.

    Because this Quiz Week isn’t simply about answers I could list like the million fingers on my hand. What I want readers to discover is how much we think other comics cultures believe what we believe, when that may or may not be so.

    Learn this, learn not to make assumptions that everybody believes what you believe, and you’ll be learning to think like professionals who communicate, rather than like fans or zealots who don’t realize there’s life outside their own preferred sandbox.

    We’re going to discuss different topics each day, so keep coming back for new ones.

    When answering the questions, please copy the question at the top, and then list your answers, short and/or long, below each category heading. This will allow for a quick and consistent read by all of us.

    “Short or long?” You ask.

    Sure, because little about this topic is cut and dried, and a lot of answers are going to be qualified by conditions, ranging from how long features have been running to whether partners are involved, etc.

    “You mean this is an essay test?” you ask.

    Yep. Share what you believe is true and important.

    “What if I just don’t know?” you ask. “Should I admit it?”

    Yep, then guess what you think might or should be true, and feel free to clarify which it is.

    WEEK 1:

    So, our first day begins with a two-fer, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

    For the following categories:

    Magazine cartoons.
    Book of collected magazine cartoons for trade book publisher.
    Comic strips for syndication.
    Book of collected comic strips for trade book publisher.
    Comic books for Marvel and/or DC titles.
    Independent comic book companies with existing titles.
    Licensed comic for direct market publisher.
    Your original comic for the direct market.
    Licensed graphic novel for trade book publisher.
    Graphic Novels packaged by third parties for trade book publishing.
    Original graphic novel for trade book publisher.
    Original graphic nonfiction for educational book market.

    1. Who usually owns the intellectual property?

    2. What’s the rationale for this position?

    Post script: if there's no discussion today, or not enough to effectively tackle the topic, this will carry over to tomorrow, or the next day, and so on. Whether we spend one, two, or three weeks on this thread topic will be determined entirely by your level of contribution. Thanks.

    ***

    Lee Nordling is the owner and founding partner of The Pack (the-pack.biz), a comics-related content provider for the publishing industry. He is also author of “Your Career In the Comics,” an overview of the newspaper comics syndication profession and industry.

    If you wish to contact Lee separately from Comics Pro Prep, please write to him at lee@projectfanboy.
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 07:18 PM.



  2. Cary Guest

    Alright I'll take a stab at this.

    1. Who usually owns the intellectual property?

    2. What’s the rationale for this position?

    Magazine cartoons.

    Would this be something along the lines of Heavy Metal, or a more newspaper like strip inside a magazine? With HM from what I’m familiar with these are generally creator owned, but I’m not sure on the specifics of the deals involved so there could well be partial rights attached depending on the strip. With newspaper like strips I’d say they’re probably more often a company or publisher owned property that they then hire someone to come in and work on. Toons like the ones found in Playboy, or even in Maxim seem to fall into that category.

    For rationale on that I’m basing my view on what I’ve heard about Heavy Metal, and what I’ve seen in other mags, but there’s no real concrete fact there, more supposition than anything else.

    Book of collected magazine cartoons for trade book publisher.

    In almost every collection I’ve seen the collected work belongs to the creator, unless those works were created work for hire, in which case they’d belong to the company or publisher they were created for.

    Again, I’m applying what I know of copyright law and making some assumptions that may or may not hold water depending on deals in place.

    Comic strips for syndication.


    I have no idea how people that run syndicated cartoons work their deals, but I can’t see Garfield belonging to anyone else but Jim Davis, or The Far Side owned by anyone other than Gary Larsen. So I’d say in this category the creators own the rights unless they’re working on someone else’s strip, in which case again it’s considered work for hire and ownership belongs to the company or publisher that actually owns the property in question. The Spider-man strip would fall under this type.

    Book of collected comic strips for trade book publisher.


    Same as above, either the creator, or the company in the event of work for hire.

    Comic books for Marvel and/or DC titles.

    This one’s a bit different. With the exception of the creator owned line Icon by Marvel, (I think DC is out of the CO business) everything they have I can think of is all work for hire, meaning anything created by anyone belongs to the company it was created for under the work for hire section of copyright law. Having said that, creators can and have been reclaiming copyrights after a certain length of time under the provisions of the Copyright law of 1978. Getting copyrights restored is a long and lengthy legal process, and thus far both DC and Marvel have fought tooth and nail to prevent it from happening, but all indications are that the estates brining action in question will indeed eventually triumph under the law.

    This is all based on having read the Copyright law at length, as well as the cases going through the courts in the past and present.

    Independent comic book companies with existing titles.

    Copyright law would work the same way for Independents as it would for Marvel and DC, unless a contract specifically grants rights to the creators. Meaning, if an artist and writer came onto Invincible for some reason, they wouldn’t own the IP, they’re work for hire. Kirkman would still own it completely. These days, post the Spawn/Angela debacle, contracts would specify that any characters Writer X or Artist Z create would belong to Kirkman as he is the boss and owns the IP they’re working on, so as to prevent Writer X from creating an integral character and then taking his toys and going home at a later date. That’s a messy thing that’s avoidable with proper contracts.

    I base these statements on not only my own experience with contracts but also the incredibly nasty events after Gaiman and McFarlane fell out.


    Licensed comic for direct market publisher.

    In this case the IP belongs to the owner it’s licensed from. GI Joe belongs to Hasbro, Transformers are the same I believe. If it’s a video game license the IP belongs to the owner of the game. The same thing works in reverse. If you as a creator choose to, you can license your IP out to any number of other media, from games to animation, to live action movies. This doesn’t assign away rights unless you sign them away, and even then this might be very difficult. I’ve read a little about assigning rights in something like this and it seems to be pretty complicated legally.

    To be honest, this is something I’d have to do more research on before I felt comfortable with the ins and outs.

    Your original comic for the direct market.

    Fairly straightforward here. My original work belongs to me, and any co-creator I might have involved. It doesn’t matter where I sell it, or don’t sell it, I/we own the IP.

    This is straight out of the US Copyright law.

    Licensed graphic novel for trade book publisher.


    The IP in this case belongs to the person the license was obtained from, or the original owner. The publisher is buying in for publishing at a stake in the profits off the printing, but the IP remains unattached as they’re paying for printing and distribution rights, not the actual IP.

    Again this comes from having read the US Copyright law.

    Graphic Novels packaged by third parties for trade book publishing.


    Dicey, but only in terms of who has the right to print and publish, not really who has ownership of the property itself. When you start adding 3rd party publishers and such into the mix things can get a bit muddied as to who owns the right to do what and where, but at the end of the day the IP goes back to whoever created it. One area I can see this getting really messed up was with Grendel via the Comico bankruptcy. It would also be relevant to a couple of other instances here being a creator owned property that was being published by a company that went under. I’m not sure if it was that creator owned works weren’t covered under the contracts at the time, or that provisions weren’t made for a bankruptcy situation in the contracts, but either way Matt Wagner spent a ton of time and money fighting to get Grendel back out of the Comico receivership. Nowdays, at least from what I’ve heard, contracts cover what happens to the property in the event of things like lawsuits and bankruptcies so as to protect the owners of the IP from being dragged down with the company going belly up.

    This comes from my own contract negotiations, and from a long look at the Comico mess as a fan anxiously awaiting Grendel’s return.

    Original graphic novel for trade book publisher.


    The OGN follows the same rules IP wise as the single comic book does. It belongs to the original creator/creators regardless of who publishes or prints the work. As I mentioned above, a creator can sign away their rights, or part of them even to a publisher, but I’m not sure of the process, nor how hard that would hold up in court if the creator brought the case of inequitable negotiation. One of the hearts of the revision of 1978 is that the Congress recognizes what’s called inequitable negotiation between parties, namely the creator and the publisher. Basically they’re saying creators were forced into giving their IP away because otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to eat or feed their families. It is because of this inequity that the Congress included provisions to reclaim copyrights.

    I got all this from the current stuff going on with the Marvel/Kirby case, as well as the previous case over Superman.

    Original graphic nonfiction for educational book market.


    And here…I have no idea. I’d have to assume however that the same rules apply, meaning the creator owns the copyrights unless assigned away under a work for hire situation.

    But I know next to nothing about how non-fiction works beyond a very broad copyright application for the guy doing the work.



  3. LeeNordling Guest

    Magazine cartoons include work by Gahan Wilson or Sergio Aragones, for example.

    Playboy, MAD, and The New Yorker are three of the top tier magazines that run one-shot magazine cartoons, though certain magazines feature their favorite cartoonists issue in and out.

    I find it fascinating that this wasn't obvious, and am happy to clarify what's in this category.

    --Lee



  4. Cary Guest

    Ah right I completely spaced MAD. I guess it's because I just don't often pick up magazines, you know? But I did just get a Heavy Metal Subscription...lol



  5. LeeNordling Guest

    A comic strips question: who owns Popeye or Prince Valiant or Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie?

    The original creators? Are the estates of these strips licensing the strips to their respective syndicates?

    Who owned Calvin & Hobbes when it started, and was it different from when it ended?

    Who owned Peanuts when it started, and was it different from when it ended?

    --Lee



  6. Cary Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    A comic strips question: who owns Popeye or Prince Valiant or Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie?

    The original creators? Are the estates of these strips licensing the strips to their respective syndicates?

    Who owned Calvin & Hobbes when it started, and was it different from when it ended?

    Who owned Peanuts when it started, and was it different from when it ended?

    --Lee
    Hmm. Good questions there. In the case of some of them, like Prince Valiant maybe, I'd say that's owned by an estate. Some of them may well be in the public domain at this point, but I'd have to do some research to verify that. As to who owned what before...that would take some looking up as well because I honestly haven't a clue.



  7. LeeNordling Guest

    Thanks, Cary, for being the first to take this brave step.

    Once we've got more contributions and discussions, I'll share the answers, and the rationale history behind those answers.

    --Lee

    PS. One note about copyright law: by the creation of something, you own it. That's not what we're discussing, though it's relevant. What we are discussing is who TENDS to own the published work in different comics-related industries, and where it's not the original creator, that means the publishers will have acquired it to own it prior to publication (for some compensation, which we won't discuss today; that comes later in this discussion). It may also mean that somebody other than the comics creators owned a project prior to their work on it, which is also a variable to consider.

    So, a hint toward moving forward: don't assume the creator of the original work necessarily "owns" it, though it's fair to state that they should. These aspects of this discussion about the different comics cultures is exactly WHY we're having this discussion.
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Tuesday, February 09, 2010 at 05:49 PM.



  8. BrandonBarrows Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    A comic strips question: who owns Popeye or Prince Valiant or Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie?

    The original creators? Are the estates of these strips licensing the strips to their respective syndicates?

    Who owned Calvin & Hobbes when it started, and was it different from when it ended?

    Who owned Peanuts when it started, and was it different from when it ended?

    --Lee
    Popeye (the character) is public domain virtually everywhere except the US.

    I remember reading an article about this around this time last year.

    The character, I believe, is copyrighted to Warner Brothers in the US through some arcane agreement when they bought many of the home video rights to the original cartoons.

    I do know that many of the original comic strips EC Seagar created are also public domain.



  9. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonBarrows View Post
    Popeye (the character) is public domain virtually everywhere except the US.

    I remember reading an article about this around this time last year.

    The character, I believe, is copyrighted to Warner Brothers in the US through some arcane agreement when they bought many of the home video rights to the original cartoons.

    I do know that many of the original comic strips EC Seagar created are also public domain.
    Just so nobody else takes this as gospel, Popeye is owned, lock, stock, and barrel by King Features Syndicate, and, as a comic strip, is copyrighted and trademarked by King Features Syndicate.

    That doesn't mean that some rights for film and animation might not still be in effect, but we're talking about the comic strip...and creator EC Seagar never owned it, or its predecessor Thimble Theater.

    Why not?

    We'll get to that later.

    I look forward to reading your answers to the questions, Brandon.

    Thanks.

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Tuesday, February 09, 2010 at 06:24 PM.



  10. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    TOO MANY WORDZZZZ

    OK, serressly, this was another bus ride (my limo) exercise.

    To your list of U.S. markets I would add:
    Comics sold as PDFs or CBRs online through third party payment processors. The Uniques is a good example.

    In Asia I would add:
    Indian print comics. I had a friend bring me back a bunch -- Archie and Mandrake the Magician are big, and Archie is a monster seller.

    Questions...

    Magazine cartoons. The magazine, guess.
    Book of collected magazine cartoons for trade book publisher. Magazine, the Mad collection I bought at Barnes & Chernobyl.
    Comic strips for syndication. Syndicate, guess
    Book of collected comic strips for trade book publisher. cartoonist, guess
    Comic books for Marvel and/or DC titles. Company, duh.
    Independent comic book companies with existing titles. Creator, because that's the business model?
    Licensed comic for direct market publisher. License holder.
    Your original comic for the direct market. ME!
    Licensed graphic novel for trade book publisher. License holder.
    Graphic Novels packaged by third parties for trade book publishing. Shared ownership, guess.
    Original graphic novel for trade book publisher. Creator(s), guess.
    Original graphic nonfiction for educational book market. Publisher, guess.

    1. Who usually owns the intellectual property?

    2. What’s the rationale for this position?



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