Category: Politics

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...

Lost Interview Part 1

A late interview -- 1990; a few years before Zappa died. In this bit the interviewer asks him about early influences; Frank tells the oft-repeated story about phoning up Edgard Varèse on his fifteenth birthday. Then he moves on up through World War II, Eisenhower, and "that naughty old Joe McCarthy." Uploaded by TheNilesLeshProject.

Scandal!

I think Ruben Bolling pretty much nailed my opinion on the misplaced priorities of the latest raft of Obama Administration scandals.

You know what? If an organization has the words "Tea Party" in its name, it's probably a partisan political organization that shouldn't be given tax-exempt status!

So why did the IRS go after groups with "Tea Party" in their names, and not, oh, I don't know, ...
...
...
...actually, I really don't know. Finish that sentence for me, everyone who is morally outraged that the IRS looked for "Tea Party" as convenient shorthand for "partisan political organization". What word or phrase should they have been looking for to nail partisan Democratic organizations to the wall in 2010? Name a ubiquitous catchphrase from the 2010 election season that was synonymous with the Democratic Party.

The Tea Party orgs weren't victims of a partisan witch hunt, they were victims of their own success. Democrats weren't targeted because they didn't have their shit together. They didn't have an easy, two-word phrase that was endlessly repeated in the media or associated with nationwide rallies.

The most upsetting thing about the IRS scandal is the prospect that the IRS will now be gun-shy about questioning partisan political organizations about whether they should really be tax-exempt. That's something they really should be doing -- and yes, they should be doing it to both parties. I'm just noting that, in the election cycle in question, one party made it a lot easier on them than the other.

As for Benghazi -- Benghazi was a tragedy. And the Obama Administration gave pretty mixed messages in the days after about whether it was a planned terrorist attack or a spontaneous outburst.

It's entirely possible that the Obama Administration deliberately delayed making a connection to Al Qaeda because it was right before the election. I wouldn't put it past them. And if that happened, then yeah, that's pretty fucking distasteful.

But when the same sons-of-bitches who praised Bush for what great leadership he showed in failing to stop a certain other terrorist attack on a certain other 11th of September, and who praised him for lying about Iraqi WMD's to drag us into war, rant about how the Benghazi talking points are worse than Watergate, well, Darrell Issa can go sit on a rusty rake.

Spying on the AP, on the other hand? Yeah, I can see room for some Watergate comparisons there. Which I suppose is why it's a distant third on the Fox News Obama Scandal Talking Points.

Course, it's kinda hard to act outraged at a governmental war on whistleblowers when you've spent the past three years crying for Julian Assange's head on a platter, but it's not like Fox News has ever let ideological consistency get in the way of cheering for Republicans and deriding Democrats. Trevor Timm at the Freedom of the Press Foundation recently penned an article titled Virtually Everything the Government Did to WikiLeaks is Now Being Done to Mainstream US Reporters; this of course is precisely what Wikileaks' defenders were warning everybody about when this mess started. That's the thing about the First Amendment -- you start carving out tiny exceptions, sooner or later you're going to find out they're not so tiny after all.

So yeah, I'd say the only legitimate scandal here is the one that the Republicans are spending the least amount of time on -- and the only one where nobody's been fired and Obama's said everything went exactly the way it was supposed to.

It would be great if we had a real opposition party; Lord knows we need one. We need politicians who are really willing to stand up to the President's excesses, for the right reasons instead of just to get attention and campaign contributions.

Sometimes I worry that the closest thing we've got in Congress to someone who's really willing to stand up to the President when it matters is Rand Paul. And that thought depresses me so goddamn much I think I'm going to go grab another beer.

Go, Ken, Go! -- Part 4: Bibliography

I think this'll round off my Ken Penders coverage for now -- maybe I'll post more when there's news; maybe I'll write a post about why I care enough about the rights to silly mid-1990's Sonic the Hedgehog comics to spend so much time and so many words on the subject, just as soon as I figure that out myself.

Anyway, here's a list of articles about Archie v Penders and the related legal disputes. I posted comments in many of these threads myself, and it's interesting (to me at least) to watch as I go from initial skepticism -- "Penders signed a contract, he had to have" -- to eventually realizing that the root of Penders's claim is that no, he didn't sign a contract, and then slowly come to believe that he's right and Archie really did forget to make him sign one.

Far and away the most legwork on this story has been done by Tristan Oliver of TSSZ News. TSSZ's coverage has been extensive, and I intend to link a few highlights here; please understand that this is by no means an exhaustive sample of everything Oliver and his associates have written on the subject. For a more thorough list, check their Penders+Copyright tag.

By the way, though: I would advise not reading the comments section on any TSSZ News story about the Penders case. The comments section is a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

(Also: My sister-in-law owns cats named "Tristan" and "Oliver". That's kinda weird.)


Ken Penders Presents... by Ken Penders, kenpenders.com, 2010-07-07. Ken's opening salvo, where he first claims that he owns or co-owns the copyrights to everything he ever wrote or drew for Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the Echidna, and assorted related specials.

Has Archie Lost Rights to Sonic Reprints? by Johanna Draper Carlson, at her blog Comics Worth Reading, 2010-07-11, mirrored on archive.org. This is the first I heard of the story; Ken's name was a bit of a blast from the past and I was surprised to hear it in the comics news.

Ken Penders Claims Sonic The Hedgehog Rights by Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool, 2010-07-10. The first of Bleeding Cool's long-running coverage of the case.

Archie v Penders thread at Brontoforumus, 2010-07-12 to present -- this thread is assembled from all the posts I (and others, but mostly I) have written on the subject for the past several years across multiple threads. It makes for a good quick run-down to read it all end-to-end.

Archie Comics Files Federal Lawsuit Against Ken Penders, by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2010-12-01. While there had been legal wrangling prior to this, this is where the lawsuits actually started. And it is important to remember, throughout this discussion, that while fanboys continue to misstate the basic facts of the case, Archie sued Ken Penders, not the other way around. (Penders has sued Sega and EA -- we'll get to that in a bit -- but he has not sued Archie. Archie sued him.)

Penders Affidavit Offers Intimate Look At His Sonic Comics Tenure by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2011-03-03. Oliver looks over the affidavit. This is where the meat of the dispute starts to become clear: Penders is claiming he never signed a work-for-hire agreement; Archie has submitted documentation to the contrary but Penders is disputing its authenticity; Penders has other creators from the same period who back up his story. Money quote: "First, the signatures are not believed by me to be authentic."

Inside Ken Penders's Alleged Work for Hire Agreements with Archie by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2011-03-07. Oliver highlights the contracts Archie has submitted as evidence, and notices a number of discrepancies in them.

Ken Penders Files Lawsuit Against Sega, Electronic Arts by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2011-06-01. As the name implies, this is the filing of Penders v Sega and EA, over the game Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, which features characters who resemble the Dark Legion from Ken's Knuckles comics.

Inside Ken Penders’s Copyright Lawsuit Against Sega, EA by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2011-06-03. More detail on the suit, notably including Penders's allegations that BioWare approached him about helping develop Sonic Chronicles, which would certainly imply they were familiar with his work and the Dark Brotherhood's resemblance to the Dark Legion is not coincidental.

The Ken Penders/Archie Comics Lawsuit Continues by Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool, 2011-06-24. More coverage of the contracts Archie submitted as an exhibit in the case, and Penders's claim -- with support from Scott Shaw and Elliot S Maggin -- that the contracts are illegitimate.

Coming Soon in 2012, by Ken Penders, kenpenders.com, 2011-12-01; Ken's statement of intent to publish his characters in his own comics, without Archie or Sega (or Sega's trademarks). At the time of this writing the thread has posts in it on up through last October; a lot of it is just Ken going in circles patiently trying to explain copyright and trademark law to his forum trolls, but if you can get through it there's a lot of edifying information on the claims he's making in the case and the legal tack he's taking with them.

Ken Penders To Publish Sonic The Hedgehog Characters On His Own by Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool, 2011-12-04; a response to the above post. The comments thread has some interesting discussion and links related to how Archie handled the TMNT license; the TMNT Adventures comic ended around the same time the Sonic comic started.

Inside the Archie v. Penders Pre-Trial Report by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2012-02-13. Notes some of the names on the witness list; a number of former Archie editors and freelancers were slated to testify and corroborate Ken's claim that Archie did not make him or other Sonic freelancers sign work-for-hire agreements.

Penders Case: Scott Shaw Claims Copyright to his Archie Sonic Work by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2012-03-20. Includes an affidavit from Shaw, as well as one from Maggin saying he never signed a work-for-hire agreement for an issue he did of Archie's Super Teens around the same time.

Ken Penders Stops Diamond From Distributing Sonic Collections by Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool, 2012-09-14. This was an early sign that Penders's claims were causing trouble for Archie; in the months since Archie has continued to put out reprints of Penders's Sonic work through Diamond, but among other measures it's altered covers so that his characters don't appear on them.

Settlement Terms Reached in Archie v. Penders Copyright Case by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2012-12-04. For a minute there, it really looked like it was almost over.

Flynn Addresses Altered Sonic #244; Fans Look To Penders Settlement by Tristan Oliver, 2012-12-27. A recent issue of Sonic the Hedgehog has most of the Knuckles the Echidna supporting cast sent through a Warp Ring and effectively written out of the series indefinitely. Notably, the characters in question are among those Penders created and is seeking to claim copyright on.

Archie Fighting Proposed Dismissal of Penders Copyright Case by Tristan Oliver, TSSZ News, 2013-03-27. And then the talks broke down and Penders moved for dismissal. In one of my favorite legal filings ever, Archie's lawyer argues against dismissing the case with prejudice because this would be, and I quote, "greatly prejudicial".

Penders Counsel Asks Court to Ban Knuckles Archives #4 Sale, Related Material in Dispute by Tristan Oliver, 2013-04-19. Ken's tightening the screws and pushing for an injunction; the judge has not made a decision yet.

Archie Desperate To Settle, But Can’t Without Sega – The Latest In The Ken Penders Sonic Comics Case by Rich Johnston, Bleeding Cool, 2013-05-09. A fantastic transcript of a May 2 court session; the judge quotes Laurel and Hardy but the transcript reads more like an Abbott and Costello routine. Counsel for both Archie and Penders state that they want to settle but that they haven't been able to get Sega to sign off on their terms.

And here we stand -- there's been no news since. The judge granted both parties more time to bring Sega to the table to approve their settlement, and that's the last we heard; neither Bleeding Cool nor TSSZ News has posted any updates on the case since.

I suspect all sides are hoping to settle rather than go to trial. If they settle, most of the terms will be private. But if talks break down, the case will go to trial. And from there, probably an appeal by whichever side loses. This could stretch on for years more. But like I said yesterday, I hope it doesn't -- I hope it gets settled on terms that are favorable to Ken.

Of course, while that would close the book on Penders's case, it wouldn't preclude all the other Sonic freelancers from that era from coming forward with claims of their own. As we've seen, there are lots of creators making the same claims Ken has -- and if he gets a settlement, they'll be angling for settlements of their own.

Stay tuned...


Update 2013-07-09: Archie v Penders has been settled. Two more related links:

It's Over. by Ken Penders, kenpenders.com, 2013-07-01. Ken announces that he is moving forward with The Lara-Su Chronicles.

Judge Officially Dismisses Archie v. Penders Case by Tristan Oliver, 2013-07-02. TSSZ News confirms that the case has been settled and the suit dismissed.


Update 2015-09-24: I'm late on this, but I recently found out that Penders v Sega et al was dismissed (due to a mistake in how the paperwork was filed, not due to any decision on the merits of the case itself).

TheAmazingSallyHogan has the most thorough summary of both cases that I have seen to date; it is well worth reading in its entirety.