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Dear DC,

Here is a list of DC Comics I would have purchased today if they had not contained obnoxious half-page Twix ads:

  • Batman Beyond #1
  • Bat-Mite #1
  • Bizarro #1

Here is a list of DC comics I purchased today:







DC, I do not have a fancy marketing degree. However, I can offer you a marketing suggestion for free: if one team of marketers suggests making money by releasing new comics that appeal to a different audience from the core DC line (albeit, granted, still pretty much just made up of spinoffs of Batman and Superman comics), and another team of marketers suggests making money through finding a really irritating and distracting way of putting advertisements in your comics, perhaps you might consider rolling out those two ideas separately instead of simultaneously. This is what is known as "isolating the variables".

I would also suggest that, if I were one of the writers, artists, editors, or marketers who had gone to considerable effort to create and market a new and different comic book to a nontraditional audience, I would be pretty unhappy right now with the people in management who had made a decision that actively sabotaged the appeal of that comic book.

I do not wish to be negative or ungrateful here. I greatly appreciate your decision to convince me to keep the nine dollars I would have spent on those three comic books. I went nextdoor and spent that money on beer instead. I had a Four Peaks Kiltlifter and a New Belgium Slow Ride. They were very good beers, and at no point in my drinking experience did they interrupt me and try to convince me to buy Twix.



Kisses,


Thad


More from Busiek on that Final Fantasy Comic

For those of you just joining us by way of a link from Kurt Busiek or CBR, welcome. I guess I should probably figure out something interesting to say so you'll feel like sticking around for a bit. For what it's worth, I've written quite a bit about Final Fantasy over the years, and three posts I wrote about FF7 back in 2011 (the first on mods for the PC version, the second on iconic images, and the third a general look back on the game) are pretty consistently the most popular thing on the site.

In lieu of me saying anything interesting, I'm going to quote a little bit more from Kurt Busiek on the unfinished Final Fantasy comic, in the comments section of the Robot 6 article on the subject.

I will also add that if the book came out, I don’t think that Final Fantasy fans would be particularly happy with it. It was 1991, and I was a workmanlike-but-not-particularly-noted writer. Dell Barras was a workmanlike artist, and, well, the covers were gorgeous.

But I don’t think I really started to make strides creatively as a writer until VAMPIRELLA: MORNING IN AMERICA (late that year) and the industry didn’t notice ’til MARVELS in 1993.

So, while I barely remember the details, I expect it was a workmanlike story that made sense but wasn’t particularly memorable, with workmanlike art and great covers.

And heresy upon heresies, I changed things (with Squaresoft’s permission). I thought it was so odd that the manly heroic lead was named Cecil and his loyal buddy was named Cain (really? You name the loyal guy Cain?) that I suggested maybe they needed Americanized names, and Squarest agreed. I don’t remember what I changed them to, but Squarest liked them enough that they asked if I’d be interested in a staff position making the games more American-appropriate. We never talked much about it, because I wanted to freelance. But I bet fans devoted to the game wouldn’t have liked the changes, especially not from a current POV, looking back.

What can I say? I wasn’t particularly a Final Fantasy fan — I’d played their first US game a little, and the second wasn’t even done yet.

He adds, in a later comment, that the bible he'd been given didn't even mention that Kain spends half the game betraying Cecil, and talks a little bit more about the original (FF1-based) outline he wrote.

(If he had been involved in localizing the game, I'm willing to bet it would have been better than what we initially got. But he'd have still been contending with cartridge space limitations and weird Nintendo censorship.)


Mignola Final Fantasy Covers

Well now. It appears that Kurt Busiek just reblogged a Tumblr post by Alex Chung, which, in turn, links back to a post I wrote back in '012 about Busiek, Barras, and Mignola's unfinished Final Fantasy comic (based on Final Fantasy 4).

So since that old post is probably getting a little bit of new traffic, I should follow it up, now that I have a couple of Mignola's covers for the series.

This one is via Chung's post, and would have been the cover to issue #2:

Final Fantasy #2 cover

And this was sent to me just over a year ago by Dale Jackson, who owns the original art; it would have been the cover of #4:

Final Fantasy #4 cover

Alex, thanks for linking to my post and for including the #2 cover; Dale, thanks for the heads-up on the #4 cover and I'm sorry it took so long to post it.


A More Detailed Valiant Comics Chronology

Back in October, following my purchase of the Humble Valiant Bundle, I posted A Brief Valiant Comics Chronology making note of the order the comics were originally published in, on the assumption that that's the correct order to read them in.

As I said then:

the short answer is: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, Quantum and Woody, Eternal Warrior, Unity, Rai, with Harbinger Wars concurrent with the third volumes of Harbinger and Bloodshot (as their title implies).

Now I can refine that recommendation.

The short version this time is that most of the series are standalone and you can read them in any order you want; the exceptions are Harbinger, Bloodshot, Harbinger Wars, Unity, and arguably Rai.

What follows is a bit more specificity on which books tie into which, plus why the chronology of Harbinger Wars is a bit of a clusterfuck and how the Humble Bundle left out a book that's a crucial lead-in to Unity.

Once again, this list focuses on the books that were included in the Humble Valiant Bundle, and doesn't include more recently-published Valiant comics.


Standalone Books

X-O Manowar vol 1-3

X-O Manowar is Valiant's first and flagship book, but it doesn't tie in with the others until later on down the line. It introduces the Vine, who get a few mentions in the other books, and it leads into Unity, but these first three volumes stand alone.

Harbinger vol 1-2

These first two volumes introduce the lead characters, including Toyo Harada, as well as the Harbinger Foundation and Project Rising Spirit, both of which crop up throughout other series.

Bloodshot vol 1

Bloodshot provides another view on Project Rising Spirit, but it doesn't really matter whether you read this first volume before or after the first couple of volumes of Harbinger.

Archer & Armstrong vol 1-3

The Archer & Armstrong books included in the bundle are completely self-contained and don't require any knowledge of the rest of the Valiant universe. Project Rising Spirit does make a brief appearance, but it's more of a namedrop than anything; it could be any shadowy organization, and doesn't really tie into its use in other Valiant comics.

Archer & Armstrong does introduce the Eternal Warrior, so it's best to read it before Unity. Also, Archer and Armstrong later team up with Quantum and Woody in The Delinquents, but that's not included in the bundle.

Shadowman vol 1-3

Shadowman doesn't cross over with any other Valiant books in the bundle except for a brief reference in Unity.

Vol 3 can almost be considered a standalone book in and of itself as it presents several done-in-one stories that don't really continue from vols 1 and 2, but since it includes the origin of Mister Darque, I think it still makes the most sense to read it last.

Shadowman also introduces Doctor Mirage, who gets a solo series later on; that series is not included in the bundle, but it does have a preview in Rai #3.

Quantum and Woody vol 1-3

The Q&W books in the bundle are standalone and don't cross over with anything else in the Valiant universe. Quantum and Woody later team up with Archer and Armstrong in The Delinquents, but that's not included in the bundle.

Eternal Warrior vol 1

Okay, so this book contradicts all the other appearances of the Eternal Warrior in all the other Valiant books so badly that it is the reason I tried to work out a chronology in the first place. It depicts Gilad as a reluctant warrior who turned his back on the Geomancers in the nineteenth century and has lived in seclusion since; this flatly contradicts both Archer & Armstrong, where he is tenaciously loyal to the Geomancers, and Unity, which shows him as part of a superhero team during WWII.

This is a fine book, but if you're worried about Valiant canon, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that this book isn't part of it.

Eternal Warrior vol 2

In fact, Eternal Warrior vol 1 is so separate from all the other Valiant books that you don't even need to read it before you read vol 2. Vol 2 is set 2000 years in the future and you don't need to read any other books about the Eternal Warrior first, including vol 1 of the same series.

This book occurs in the same future as Rai, but Eternal Warrior takes place on Earth and Rai takes place in an orbital space station, so there's not really any crossover to speak of. I'd recommend reading Eternal Warrior before Rai, but it's not that important.


Harbinger Wars

Bloodshot vol 2

This one almost falls under the standalone category, but its last page leads directly into Harbinger Wars. You'll want to read at least the first volume of Harbinger before you read Bloodshot vol 2; otherwise the last page isn't going to make a whole lot of sense.

The Crossover

Here's where things get dicey.

Harbinger Wars is one of those crossover events that takes place across its own self-titled miniseries, Harbinger, and Bloodshot. As in most crossovers of its type, that means a whole lot of rereading the same events from different perspectives — Harbinger Wars focuses on Project Rising Spirit and HARD Corps, Harbinger switches between Toyo Harada and the Harbinger Foundation and Peter Stanchek and the Renegades, and Bloodshot follows Bloodshot and his team.

Harbinger and Harbinger Wars manage to line up pretty well with one another, but Bloodshot is paced significantly behind the other two. In both Harbinger and Harbinger Wars, Bloodshot makes it to Vegas and meets up with the Renegades in the third issue of the arc, while in Bloodshot, the third issue is a detour and he doesn't make it to Vegas until the fourth part. If you read the individual issues in the order they were published, it's jarring; they're out of sync.

So, you can either read each trade beginning-to-end, in order:

  1. Harbinger Wars
  2. Harbinger vol 3
  3. Bloodshot vol 3

or you can read the individual issues in the order they take place:

  1. Harbinger #0
  2. Harbinger Wars #1
  3. Harbinger #11
  4. Bloodshot #10
  5. Harbinger Wars #2
  6. Bloodshot #11
  7. Harbinger #12
  8. Bloodshot #12
  9. Harbinger Wars #3
  10. Harbinger #13
  11. Harbinger Wars #4
  12. Harbinger #14
  13. Bloodshot #13

Either way, you'll want to read the first two volumes each of Harbinger and Bloodshot before you read Harbinger Wars.


Unity

Not Included

The Humble Valiant Bundle doesn't include X-O Manowar vol 4, which is something of a problem as that book leads into Unity. At least, at the beginning of Unity, Aric has set up in Romania and has already crossed paths with Gilad; this doesn't happen in any of the books in the bundle and I assume it's in X-O vol 4.

Unity vol 1-2

Before you read this, you'll want to have read the first three volumes of X-O Manowar, the first three volumes of Harbinger (including the Harbinger Wars crossover), the first two volumes of Archer & Armstrong (since vol 2 introduces the Eternal Warrior, who appears in Unity), and, if you've got it, the fourth volume of X-O Manowar (which, as noted, is not included in the Humble Valiant Bundle).


And Finally…

Rai #1-#4

I would almost call Rai standalone, but it does pick up a thread from Unity vol 2, so I'd recommend reading that first. And maybe Eternal Warrior vol 2, since it takes place in the same future as Rai; there's not much overlap between them, but I think the story of Japan-as-space-station gains something if you already know what's going on down on the surface before you start.


A Brief Valiant Comics Chronology

So I picked up the Humble Valiant Bundle a few weeks back. (The bundle is no longer being sold, but that link will show you some of what was in it.)

I'm enjoying it, and I was enjoying the shared universe, right up until I got to the part where the Eternal Warrior shows up in Archer & Armstrong and behaves completely differently from how he does in Eternal Warrior. (In A&A, he's a Terminator-like unstoppable killing machine who follows Archer to the ends of the earth to avenge the death of a Geomancer and will not listen to reason when his brother tells him Archer is innocent. Whereas in his own book, he's been in seclusion for the past 150 years after telling all the Geomancers they can go fuck themselves, and rejoins the battle only with the greatest reluctance. Both of these stories are supposed to be set in the present.) Now, maybe this gets explained later — maybe he's being mind-controlled or something — but it's pretty jarring if you read Eternal Warrior first and then switch to Archer and Armstrong.

So I got to wondering, what order are you supposed to read these books in?

It's actually surprisingly difficult to find a simple answer to this question on Valiant's site or Wikipedia. But after some research, I've found that the short answer is: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, Shadowman, Quantum and Woody, Eternal Warrior, Unity, Rai, with Harbinger Wars concurrent with the third volumes of Harbinger and Bloodshot (as their title implies).

The long answer is this giant table I made.

(Update 2014-12-31: And the even longer answer is a newer post I wrote, titled A More Detailed Valiant Comics Chronology.)

Note that this is not exhaustive; I've only included the books that were in the Humble Valiant Bundle (and not the Valiant Masters, which are the original 1990's continuity). Also note that these dates are from solicitations I've found online; some of these might not be the actual ship dates, but most of them probably are.

Series Issue Release Trade Release
X-O Manowar #01 2012-05-02 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
X-O Manowar #02 2012-06-06 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
Harbinger #01 2012-06-06 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Harbinger #02 2012-07-11 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Bloodshot #01 2012-07-11 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
X-O Manowar #03 2012-07-18 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
Archer & Armstrong #01 2012-08-08 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
Bloodshot #02 2012-08-15 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
Harbinger #03 2012-08-15 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
X-O Manowar #04 2012-08-29 vol 1: By the Sword 2012-12-05
Bloodshot #03 2012-09-05 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
Archer & Armstrong #02 2012-09-05 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
X-O Manowar #05 2012-09-12 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #04 2012-09-12 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Bloodshot #04 2012-10-10 vol 1: Setting the World on Fire 2013-02-06
Archer & Armstrong #03 2012-10-10 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
X-O Manowar #06 2012-10-17 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #05 2012-10-17 vol 1: Omega Rising 2013-01-09
Shadowman #01 2012-11-07 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #05 2012-11-14 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #04 2012-11-14 vol 1: Michelangelo Code, The 2013-03-06
X-O Manowar #07 2012-11-21 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #06 2012-11-21 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #02 2012-12-05 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #06 2012-12-12 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #05 2012-12-12 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #08 2012-12-19 vol 2: Enter Ninjak 2013-03-27
Harbinger #07 2012-12-19 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #03 2013-01-09 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #07 2013-01-16 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #06 2013-01-16 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #09 2013-01-23 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Harbinger #08 2013-01-23 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Harbinger #0 2013-02-06 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Shadowman #04 2013-02-06 vol 1: Birth Rites 2013-04-24
Bloodshot #08 2013-02-13 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #07 2013-02-13 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #10 2013-02-20 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Harbinger #09 2013-02-20 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #05 2013-03-06 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Bloodshot #09 2013-03-13 vol 2: Rise and the Fall, The 2013-06-26
Archer & Armstrong #08 2013-03-13 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #11 2013-03-20 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Harbinger #10 2013-03-20 vol 2: Renegades 2013-05-22
Shadowman #06 2013-04-03 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Harbinger Wars #01 2013-04-03 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #11 2013-04-10 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Archer & Armstrong #09 2013-04-10 vol 2: Wrath of the Eternal Warrior 2013-07-31
X-O Manowar #12 2013-04-17 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Bloodshot #10 2013-04-17 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
Shadowman #0 2013-05-01 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Harbinger Wars #02 2013-05-01 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #12 2013-05-08 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Archer & Armstrong #0 2013-05-08 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
X-O Manowar #13 2013-05-15 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Bloodshot #11 2013-05-15 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
Archer & Armstrong #10 2013-06-05 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Shadowman #07 2013-06-05 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Harbinger Wars #03 2013-06-12 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #13 2013-06-19 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Bloodshot #12 2013-06-19 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
X-O Manowar #14 2013-06-26 vol 3: Planet Death 2013-08-21
Shadowman #08 2013-07-03 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Quantum and Woody #01 2013-07-10 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Archer & Armstrong #11 2013-07-17 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Harbinger Wars #04 2013-07-17 Harbinger Wars 2013-09-18
Harbinger #14 2013-07-24 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-09-25
Bloodshot #13 2013-07-24 vol 3: Harbinger Wars 2013-10-16
Shadowman #09 2013-08-07 vol 2: Darque Reckoning 2013-10-23
Quantum and Woody #02 2013-08-07 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Archer & Armstrong #12 2013-08-14 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Shadowman #10 2013-09-04 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Quantum and Woody #03 2013-09-04 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Archer & Armstrong #13 2013-09-11 vol 3: Far Faraway 2013-12-04
Eternal Warrior #01 2013-09-11 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Shadowman #11 2013-10-02 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Quantum and Woody #04 2013-10-02 vol 1: World's Worst Superhero Team, The 2013-11-06
Eternal Warrior #02 2013-10-09 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Shadowman #12 2013-11-06 vol 3: Deadside Blues 2014-01-01
Quantum and Woody #05 2013-11-06 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #01 2013-11-13 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Eternal Warrior #03 2013-11-20 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Quantum and Woody #06 2013-12-04 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #02 2013-12-11 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Eternal Warrior #04 2013-12-18 vol 1: Sword of the Wild 2014-01-22
Quantum and Woody #07 2014-01-08 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #03 2014-01-15 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Eternal Warrior #05 2014-01-22 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Eternal Warrior #06 2014-02-12 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Quantum and Woody #07 2014-02-19 vol 2: In Security 2014-03-05
Unity #04 2014-02-19 vol 1: To Kill a King 2014-03-12
Quantum and Woody #0 2014-03-05 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Unity #05 2014-03-12 vol 2: Trapped by Webnet 2014-07-09
Eternal Warrior #07 2014-03-26 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Quantum and Woody #09 2014-04-02 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Unity #06 2014-04-09 vol 2: Trapped by Webnet 2014-07-09
Eternal Warrior #08 2014-04-23 vol 2: Eternal Emperor 2014-06-18
Rai #01 2014-05-07
Quantum and Woody #10 2014-05-14 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Unity #07 2014-05-21 vol 2: Trapped by Webnet 2014-07-09
Quantum and Woody #11 2014-06-04 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Rai #02 2014-06-04
Quantum and Woody #11 2014-07-02 vol 3: Crooked Pasts, Present Tense 2014-09-17
Rai #03 2014-07-09
Rai #04 2014-08-27

Table sorting courtesy of jQuery and tablesorter; icons courtesy of Font Awesome.


Kirbys and Marvel Settle

Today, Marvel and the Kirby Estate released a short joint statement:

Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.

It's finally over.

I've revised my 2010 form post, The King's Ransom, for what I hope will be the last time.

A bit of context, since I wasn't updating the blog back in June (though I did tweak the aforementioned form post): the Kirby heirs were appealing the case to the Supreme Court, and a number of amicus briefs were filed in the case by prominent groups including the Artists' Rights Society and the International Intellectual Property Institute. Among others, Bruce Lehman, former director of the USPTO, argued that the instance and expense test that the previous judgement against the Kirby heirs hinged on violated Supreme Court precedent.

The Supreme Court was set to decide whether or not to take the case in just a few days.

Kurt Busiek says, in the comments section at The Beat:

Considering that the Kirby Estate didn’t seem to have anything to lose by going to the Supreme Court, but Marvel/Disney had a lot on the line, I’m thinking (or hoping, at least) that this was a decent settlement for the Estate. Given the timing — if the Supreme Court had chosen to hear the case, no settlement would then be possible — it virtually has to be a deal spurred on by the side that doesn’t want the case to go to the Court.

However unlikely onlookers think it might be that the Court would take up the case, and however corporate-friendly the Court may seem to be, the stakes are very high, and a settlement may have seemed a better plan than rolling the dice.

Busiek, of course, doesn't have any inside knowledge of the case, but I find he's been extremely knowledgeable about the facts and issues involved.

Mark Evanier — who does have inside knowledge of the case — started off this morning by joking that he can finally finish his Kirby biography, and then added, in a second blog post:

If you're coming to this page in search of details and commentary, you've come to the wrong place. I will be saying nothing about it other that I am real, real happy. And I'm sure Jack and his wife Roz, if they're watching this from wherever they are, are real, real, real happy.

I noted, back in a 2013 post about Archie v Penders, that the thing about settlements is that their terms are typically confidential. It's likely that we'll never know the precise details of the Kirby settlement. (If I were a betting man, I'd say Marvel probably agreed to give them the same profit-sharing deal that it gives current creators — but that's just a guess, and it's worth what you paid for it.)

One thing we will know is whether the settlement involves more prominent creator credits for Kirby. Marvel's creator credits have been inconsistent up to this point — the original 2002 Spider-Man movie has a "Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko" credit right upfront, and Agents of SHIELD credits Lee and Kirby at the top of each episode, but other movies have buried creators' names at the bottom of the end credits under a nebulous "special thanks" section. I expect from here on in we'll be seeing much more prominent "Created by Jack Kirby" credits in comics, movies, and TV shows. Guess we'll know soon enough.

And speaking for myself — I guess my boycott's finally over.

Which is good, because that Mike Allred Silver Surfer sure looks great.


Important Comics

Today's the anniversary of a couple of things.

It would have been Jack Kirby's 96th birthday.

And, more importantly — as the King himself would surely have acknowledged –, it's the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington.

I was at a loss for precisely how I was going to tie these two events together in the same post — and then I remembered Congressman John Lewis has a comic book out.

Stephen Colbert interviewed him a couple of weeks back:

Lewis discusses not only his new comic trilogy, March, but a comic that inspired him in 1957: Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. An excellent summary by Andrew Aydin at Creative Loafing Atlanta says:

Richard Deats, [the Fellowship of Reconciliation]'s Director of Communications in the 1990s, laid out FOR's motivation and purpose behind the comic in a 1997 letter, saying, "The comic book was originally intended to convey to semiliterate persons the story of nonviolence and its effectiveness as seen in the Montgomery movement. The medium of the highly popular comic book was believed to be the best way to reach masses of exploited African-Americans."

And that's what comic books were: they were a way of reaching the masses. They were literature for the illiterate.

And as with all mass-media means of distributing information to the poor, this upset the elites.

When comics first appeared in American newspapers around the turn of the twentieth century, they were seen as gutter trash. In the decades that followed, they were scapegoated for society's ills, culminating in Senate hearings, the Comics Code Authority, and the devastation of an entire American art form.

In a way, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was exactly what the elites feared: it upset the social structure. It gave teenagers like John Lewis ideas.

It's ironic that the comics medium's greatest foe, Fredric Wertham, was also an ardent progressive in the Civil Rights Movement — if he had never written Seduction of the Innocent, he would instead be best remembered for the doll study used in Brown v Board. Wertham was right, in a way, about comics' potential as a disruptive force, as a powerful tool for influencing young people — but he chose to fear the imagined impact of fictional crime and horror stories, rather than see the true potential of comics as a force for good, for education, for organization, for social justice.

Kirby, of course, saw boundless potential in comics, in a way few people ever have. He used comics to advocate for social change, too, though he preferred fiction and metaphor, and is best remembered as a superhero artist (though his work crossed all genres and invented some). He saw superheroes as modern mythological figures — as New Gods — as aspirational avatars.

In the 1940's, Kirby co-created Captain America, advocating for US intervention in WWII when that was still a controversial position. In the 1970's, his Forever People were technologically-advanced, alien hippies. In the 1960's, The Fantastic Four gave us The Hate-Monger, a supervillain in a Klan hood who turned out to be Adolf Hitler himself. It also gave us this guy:

The Black Panther

That image is courtesy of Brian Cronin's Comic Book Legends Revealed, which notes that the Black Panther didn't look like that in the final published comic — his half-mask was replaced with a full mask, making it less immediately obvious that the Black Panther was, in fact, a black man — indeed, possibly the first black superhero. (Inevitably when you refer to a comic book character as "the first" of anything, that's going to lead to debate — sometimes that debate can miss the point entirely and turn into mere nitpicking over comic book trivia, though other times, as in Who Was the First Black Superhero? by JV Halliburton II, it can explore the richness of comic history and highlight all the important characters who have helped to build and shape it and make it more diverse.)

Today Mark Evanier wrote a lovely remembrance of his friend and mentor, and among many other things he had this to say:

Jack was all about something new, something exciting and something that took whatever he was doing to the next level. […] Jack was first and foremost interested in producing something that would take comics to some new plateau, creating new opportunities and new possibilities.

Kirby believed in comics. So did Martin Luther King and Alfred Hassler. So does John Lewis.

And so does Jillian Kirby. I've written before about her Kirby4Heroes fundraiser for the Hero Initiative, a charity that helps struggling comic creators. As we celebrate her grandfather's birthday, don't forget about the less fortunate who have helped shape the comics medium over the years and decades.


Kirby4Heroes

Following up on last week's post about Jillian Kirby and her fundraiser for the Hero Initiative on behalf of her late grandfather: there's writeup in Monday's LA Times Hero Complex.

It's got some great photos of Jack and his family, and Jillian tells some stories about him too — I'm partial to the one where he invites a homeless man in for a meal at his nephew's bar mitzvah.

Jillian's goal is to raise $10,000 for the Hero Initiative for Jack's birthday on the 28th. There are some auctions of original art that should help a lot toward that goal — but even a few bucks helps.

Best of luck to Jillian and to the Hero Initiative. It's a great cause, and she seems to be a pretty great lady.


It's Marvel v Kirby, not Kirby v Marvel

I haven't had time to read the full judgement yet in the appellate court's recent decision in Marvel's favor in Marvel v Kirby.

What I have had time to read is multiple otherwise-reliable comics sites getting the basic facts of the case wrong — indeed, the most basic fact of the case, which is who sued whom.

Matt D Wilson's article on the story at ComicsAlliance says,

Kirby’s heirs brought their suit over the characters in 2009, as the push to make huge-grossing movies featuring characters Kirby co-created (like The Avengers, which has made more than $1.5 billion) was really heating up. Marvel and parent company Disney countersued the next year.

(Wilson also incorrectly claims that the rights to the Silver Surfer were part of the dispute — they weren't; the dispute concerns works created between 1958 and 1963, and the Surfer first appeared in 1966 — and then misspells Gary Friedrich's name.)

Heidi McDonald's piece at Comics Beat — a site which is ordinarily one of the best for coverage of comic book copyright disputes, due to lawyer Jeff Trexler's contributions — is titled "Marvel wins appeal in lawsuit brought by Jack Kirby’s heirs", and its first sentence also refers to "a lawsuit bought by Jack Kirby’s heirs". Which is fucking baffling considering that right there on the same page Ms. McDonald has embedded a PDF named marvel-v-kirby.pdf that starts out like this:

11-3333-cv
Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Kirby

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
August Term, 2012
(Argued: October 24, 2012 Decided: August 8, 2013)
Docket No. 11-3333-cv
-------------------------------------
MARVEL CHARACTERS, INCORPORATED, MARVEL WORLDWIDE,
INCORPORATED, MVL RIGHTS, LLC,
Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees,
WALT DISNEY COMPANY, MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT, INCORPORATED,
Counter-Defendants-Appellees,
- v -
LISA R KIRBY, NEAL L. KIRBY, SUSAN N. KIRBY, BARBARA J.
KIRBY,
Defendants-Counter-Claimaints-Appellants.
-------------------------------------
Before: CABRANES, SACK, and CARNEY, Circuit Judges.

Again, I haven't had time to read the full judgement yet — but Heidi McDonald apparently hasn't had time to read the first line, the list of parties, or the filename.

And look, I really like Heidi McDonald, and I really like Comics Beat. But I think this is terrible. It's one thing for somebody in the comments section to spout the common misconception that the Kirbys sued Marvel — hell, it's pretty much a given! –, but it's another entirely to see it in the headline on a reputable site.

The Kirbys did not sue Marvel in 2009. They filed for termination of copyright transfer. Marvel sued them in 2010; only then did the Kirbys countersue.

I am sure that this is an honest mistake, on McDonald's part, on Wilson's part, probably on the part of some (but certainly not all) the people who repeat the same misinformation in various comments sections across the comics Internet.

But while it may be an honest mistake, it is not a trivial one.

Facts are important. Details are important. The question of who sued whom is important.

The claim that the Kirbys sued Marvel in 2009 is false. That is not a matter of opinion; it is not subject to dispute. The Kirbys did not sue Marvel in 2009 — that is a fact.

Any narrative which maintains that the Kirbys sued first is, likewise, false, and presents an incorrect, misleading picture of the very nature of the suit.

And that even someone like Heidi McDonald, who is sympathetic to the Kirbys, has inadvertently bought into and repeated the false narrative that they sued first says a lot about how pervasive that narrative has become.


Kirby4Heroes

Last year on Jack Kirby's birthday, I covered Kirby4Heroes, his granddaughter Jillian's fundraiser for the Hero Initiative, a charity for down-on-their-luck comics creators.

Well, this year's Kirby Day is a few weeks off yet, but the young Ms. Kirby has just unveiled the Kirby4Heroes Facebook Page, and has more work coming up.

Readers of this site will know that I don't really do the Facebook thing, but statistically speaking you probably do, so go Like and Share and whatever it is you kids do. And even if you don't have a Facebook account, you can still take a gander at some great family photos on the site — spanning Jack and Roz's entire lives.

And if you've got a few bucks to spare for the Hero Initiative, please do. Remember the sad stories of guys like Robert Washington — it's a tough damn business, and its brightest stars seldom get the recognition or thanks they deserve — and fair wages are rarer still.

Thanks, Jack. And thanks as well to Jillian.