Category: Politics

Kirby on Work-for-Hire

One of the most common facts Kirby critics cite -- well, the ones who actually have a basic understanding of the facts of the case, anyway -- is that he sided with Marvel when Joe Simon attempted to recapture the rights to Captain America in 1966.

I'm reading Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, by Sean Howe. It's an excellent book, and recommended.

And I just came across the exact wording of Kirby's statement on the subject. It appears on page 77 of Howe's book, and he cites a post on 20th Century Danny Boy, which has a scan of the statement.

It reads, in part:

I felt that whatever I did for Timely belonged to Timely as was the practice in those days. When I left Timely, all of my work was left with them.

Kirby certainly seems to be suggesting that the work he and Simon did for Timely in the 1940's was work-for-hire and not spec work. As such, that does seem to undercut any later claims he or his family might make that he believed he and Simon created Captain America independently and had a right to terminate the transfer of copyright.

Critics of the Kirby Estate's legal maneuverings over the past few years cite that this shows that Jack knew his work in the 1960's was work-for-hire, too.

But does it?

Because from where I'm sitting, it seems to indicate exactly the opposite.

Kirby says, "I felt that whatever I did for Timely belonged to Timely as was the practice in those days." Why the past tense? If Kirby believed that the work he was doing in the 1960's was work-for-hire, that it was owned by Marvel, and that he had no stake in it -- why would he refer to that arrangement as what "was the practice in those days", decades earlier? Why wouldn't he use the present tense? Why wouldn't he indicate that this was still the practice at the time he was writing that statement, if he believed that to be the case?

Kirby's words in this document clearly imply that he believes the work-for-hire arrangement is a thing of the past, and not a standard agreement at the time he wrote the statement in 1966.

Lost Interview Part 6

Actually, I screwed up -- last night's was part 6; this is part 5. Order doesn't seem to particularly matter on these two, though, except for the last bit on artistic freedom and censorship, which leads into the "candy-coated dictatorship" bit I posted last night.

Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles as houseguests, the King and RFK assassinations, conspiracies, UFO's, the moon landing, Woodstock, the sexual revolution, and what do you want him to say about artistic freedom?

Quantum and Woody

I haven't talked about the questions surrounding the upcoming, non-Priest-and-Bright Quantum and Woody comic because there's so much we don't know and I didn't want to jump the gun.

Today, for the first time, we got word from Mark Bright that the situation with Valiant is "amicable":

As far as I know Priest hasn’t spoken to anyone about anything concerning Quantum and Woody other than myself and that happened only within the last month or so… Our position with Valiant isn’t adversarial. The people at Valiant have been more than willing to talk about what is happening at the company and with Quantum and Woody and with Priest and me. What happens from here is yet to be seen, but everything thus far has been amicable.

Pretty vague, but it gives me hope.


Let me back up. (Ooh, out-of-sequence storytelling. Just like...Quantum and Woody!)

Quantum and Woody was a comic book in the mid-1990's, created by writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Bright. It was a superhero buddy-cop comedy. It was funny as hell and became a cult hit; it remains one of my all-time favorite comic books.

Quantum and Woody was published by Acclaim, a video game company that was briefly in the comics business, having bought out a publisher called Valiant.

Priest and Bright's contract contained a reversion clause -- if the book went out of print, they had the opportunity to buy the rights.

But Acclaim went bankrupt. Its assets were auctioned off. Somebody bought the rights to its superhero line, and eventually a couple of Valiant fans bought the company name and those rights.

Now, I've done a bit of reading on bankruptcy law. And yes, it is possible for somebody to buy up copyrights without buying into the contracts associated with them. This is, legally, a breach of contract -- but the company liable for the breach is the bankrupt company, not the buyer.

Which, I'm not gonna lie, seems pretty goddamn stupid from where I'm sitting. What the fuck good is it to make a bankrupt company liable for anything? It's not like they're ever going to pay any damages.

Anyhow, the new Valiant doesn't appear to have done anything legally wrong. Indeed, they appear to be treating the old Valiant/Acclaim creators better than they're legally obligated to -- the article I linked above suggests that they are paying royalties for the back issues they've put up on Comixology, and while it doesn't cite a source, I think that would go a long way to explaining why things are "amicable" with Priest and Bright -- and Kevin Maguire, who had some harsh words for Valiant back in March but who has since smoothed things over with them.


So what happened, anyway?

Kevin Maguire claimed, back in a series of posts on Bleeding Cool in March, that Priest and Bright attempted to trigger their reversion rights before Acclaim's bankruptcy but that Acclaim stonewalled them on a technicality.

Rich Johnston, on the other hand, has uncovered a 2005 interview where Priest says he and Bright never acted on reversion because they were busy with other projects.

Now, it could be that Priest was being diplomatic and keeping things close to the vest -- that would be consistent with his silence on the matter these last few months.

Or it could be that Maguire is mistaken and Priest and Bright didn't attempt reversion.

The answers aren't clear, and probably never will be.

But it's good to hear that things are amicable, and it sounds like Valiant is in touch with Priest and Bright and is making an effort to do the right thing. That's great news.

What would be better would be to read some actual new material by Priest and Bright -- Quantum and Woody or anything else. Fingers crossed.


Meanwhile: IGN is running Quantum and Woody Weekly, by James Asmus and Ty Templeton, to promote the upcoming series. And I have to admit, the first one made me smile.

It's not Priest and Bright. But it's not bad.

Arpaio Wriggles Free Again

The bad news is that the Arpaio recall effort has failed to collect enough signatures.

The good news is he's been convicted of racial profiling in Melendres v Arpaio.

The bad news is that so far his only punishment is a judge telling him he's not allowed to racially profile people anymore.

Additional punishment could be forthcoming. But at this point, I'll believe it when I see it.

Lost Interview Part 3

He describes how he thinks his campaign would work -- and basically describes Nader's from 1996. Sometimes I can't decide if Frank is a bitter cynic or a naïve Pollyanna.

Then again, Frank gives a much more entertaining interview than Ralph.

And then we're on into Kennedy (I wonder what Frank would have thought of Clinton?), Nixon (I can guess what he would have thought of Bush), Johnson, and just a little bit of Carter, the Beatles, the Stones, and Lenny Bruce.

Sanity from Texas

The Texas legislature's passage of a landmark E-Mail privacy bill is something of a Nixon-goes-to-China moment: nobody is going to accuse Texas of being soft on crime or caving to the ACLU.

Perry hasn't signed it yet, and there's still a chance he could veto it. But the nice thing about having a Democrat in the White House is that Republicans suddenly remember that government invasions of privacy are bad.

I've been saying for years that Republicans had real potential to reverse some of the excesses of the post-9/11 security apparatus, if only they would realize they could use it as a bludgeon against Obama and still keep their reputation as the Tough On Terror, Tough On Crime, Strong On National Security Party.

(In this case, of course, "post-9/11 security apparatus" is an oversimplification, as current computer privacy law dates back to 1986. Still, I think my point stands.)

Perry's still got the opportunity to continue on with the status quo. But there's a real opportunity here. We're living in a nation with a toxic mix of archaic technology law and cutting-edge surveillance techniques, and opportunists in both the public and private sector who are all too happy to exploit the disparity.

Lost Interview Part 2

Continuing thoughts on McCarthy, and then a right turn to Elvis. And from there to the origins of Elvis's music in R&B and "race music" and the pernicious effects of good old-fashioned 1950's-vintage racism. Then Duck and Cover and politics in general, and more later...