Dear President Obama,

It has recently come to my attention that White House policy is now decided based on things people post on blogs.

Sir, I won't brag about my credentials, but suffice it to say that I know how to operate WordPress and I spend upwards of ten dollars per year to maintain a domain name.

To that end, I must share with you a shocking photo I have unearthed, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently made some highly inappropriate and racially-charged remarks:
Tom Vilsack saying he fucking hates white farmers.  Not edited on a computer.

Please remove this individual, who has clearly proven himself to be a complete fucking idiot who is not competent to make cabinet-level decisions, from his post and replace him with someone who is not a complete fucking idiot.

If I am not available, I hear Shirley Sherrod is looking for work.

Love,

Thaddeus R R Boyd, Blogger

PS: If my blogger credentials are insufficent for the White House to do what I say, I am willing to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress.

First, a note on ordering, which is much more complicated with Thundercats than Silverhawks.

Regardless of what you may have seen on IMDb and various other sites, Thundercats ran four seasons, not two. Since the extent of the research the guys at Warner did for the Thundercats DVD release appears to have been "look it up on IMDb", the DVD's themselves give the wrong number of seasons.

(The best proof I've found for the four-season claim -- other than my own not-inconsiderable memory -- is on purrsiathunder.org. Purrsia has collected some original scripts, which are dated.)

(Also, if all goes well, you may be reading this at some point in the future when IMDb is no longer wrong. I'm trying to fix it but it's taken some time to convince the editors.)

(Update 2014-10-09: Per the excellent Hear the Roar! by David Crichton, there were two production seasons which were split into four broadcast seasons. The second production season was made up of 60 episodes and split into 3 broadcast seasons of 20 episodes, each added to syndication a year apart. Thanks to Mr. Crichton's book, I have finally convinced IMDb to fix its stupid madeup airdates.)

But it's still not that simple, because the original broadcast order of Thundercats was itself wrong, with first-season episodes airing out of story order -- notably, the Lion-O's Anointment arc aired with a bunch of episodes in-between instead of all five episodes running in a row. So there's an alternate order for those, too. Purrsia calls it the Modern Order. It's apocryphal, but I'm using it here because it makes a damn sight more sense than the broadcast order.

So, to wit, I've given three different versions of the numbering: MO for Modern Order, BO for Broadcast Order, and DVD for DVD order (which is the same as broadcast order but numbered differently).

Thundercats-Ho! aired as a TV movie and then was split up into 5 episodes. Note that numbering it as 1x66-70 is not strictly accurate, as it falls between season 1 and 2, but I'm using that numbering for sorting purposes.

So, to it.

Update 2014-10-09: Also per Hear the Roar, it may interest you to note that Julian P. Gardner is an alias used by Jules Bass. (Probably less interesting, but still notable: Bill Ratter is an alias used by a writer named Deborah Goodwin, who to my knowledge does not have any credits beyond Thundercats and Silverhawks.)

MO BO DVD Title Writer
1x01 1x01 1x01 Exodus Leonard Starr
1x02 1x02 1x02 The Unholy Alliance Leonard Starr
1x03 1x03 1x03 Berbils Leonard Starr
1x04 1x04 1x04 The Slaves of Castle Plun-Darr Leonard Starr
1x05 1x07 1x07 Trouble With Time Ron Goulart & Julian P. Gardner
1x06 1x05 1x05 Pumm-Ra Julian P. Gardner
1x07 1x06 1x06 The Terror of Hammerhand Ron Goulart & Julian P. Gardner
1x08 1x08 1x08 The Tower of Traps Leonard Starr
1x09 1x09 1x09 The Garden of Delights Barney Cohen & Julian P. Gardner
1x10 1x10 1x10 Mandora — The Evil Chaser William Overgard
1x11 1x11 1x11 The Ghost Warrior Leonard Starr
1x12 1x12 1x12 The Doomgaze Stephen Perry
1x13 1x13 1x13 Lord of the Snows Bob Haney
1x14 1x14 1x14 The Spaceship Beneath the Sands Leonard Starr
1x15 1x15 1x15 The Time Capsule Peter Lawrence
1x16 1x16 1x16 The Fireballs of Plun-Darr William Overgard
1x17 1x17 1x17 All That Glitters Bob Haney
1x18 1x18 1x18 Spitting Image Howard Post
1x19 1x37 1x37 Lion-O's Anointment First Day — The Trial of Strength Leonard Starr
1x20 1x42 1x42 Lion-O's Anointment Second Day — The Trial of Speed Leonard Starr
1x21 1x46 1x46 Lion-O's Anointment Third Day — The Trial of Cunning Leonard Starr
1x22 1x50 1x50 Lion-O's Anointment Fourth Day — The Trial of Mind Power Leonard Starr
1x23 1x61 1x61 Lion-O's Anointment Final Day — The Trial of Evil Leonard Starr
1x24 1x19 1x19 Mongor Peter Lawrence
1x25 1x20 1x20 Return to Thundera Bob Haney
1x26 1x25 1x25 Snarf Takes Up the Challenge Peter Lawrence
1x27 1x31 1x31 Mandora and the Pirates William Overgard
1x28 1x23 1x23 The Crystal Queen Leonard Starr
1x29 1x24 1x24 Safari Joe Stephen Perry
1x30 1x32 1x32 Return of the Driller Howard Post
1x31 1x45 1x45 Turmagar the Tuska C. H. Trengove
1x32 1x26 1x26 Sixth Sense Peter Lawrence
1x33 1x21 1x21 Dr. Dometone William Overgard
1x34 1x22 1x22 The Astral Prison Peter Lawrence
1x35 1x34 1x34 Queen of 8 Legs Stephen Perry
1x36 1x33 1x33 Dimension Doom Bob Haney
1x37 1x43 1x43 The Rock Giant Peter Lawrence
1x38 1x27 1x27 The Thunder-Cutter William Overgard
1x39 1x48 1x48 Mechanical Plague Peter Lawrence
1x40 1x38 1x38 The Demolisher Bob Haney & Peter Lawrence
1x41 1x29 1x29 Feliner, Part 1 Stephen Perry
1x42 1x30 1x30 Feliner, Part 2 Stephen Perry
1x43 1x51 1x51 Excalibur Peter Lawrence
1x44 1x52 1x52 Secret of the Ice King Bob Haney
1x45 1x35 1x35 Sword in a Hole William Overgard
1x46 1x28 1x28 The Wolfrat C. H. Trengove
1x47 1x53 1x53 Good and Ugly Peter Lawrence
1x48 1x55 1x55 Divide and Conquer Lee Schneider
1x49 1x41 1x41 The Micrits Bruce Smith
1x50 1x59 1x59 The Superpower Potion C. H. Trengove
1x51 1x36 1x36 The Evil Harp of Charr-Nin Douglas Bernstein & Denis Markell
1x52 1x40 1x40 Tight Squeeze Stephen Perry
1x53 1x39 1x39 Monkian's Bargain Lee Schneider
1x54 1x57 1x57 Out of Sight C. H. Trengove
1x55 1x44 1x44 Jackalman's Rebellion Bruce Smith
1x56 1x58 1x58 The Mountain Danny Peary
1x57 1x60 1x60 Eye of the Beholder Kenneth E. Vose
1x58 1x47 1x47 The Mumm-Ra Berbil Jeri Craden
1x59 1x62 1x62 The Trouble with Thunderkittens Kimberly B. Morris
1x60 1x63 1x63 Mumm-Rana Bob Haney
1x61 1x49 1x49 Trapped Stephen Perry
1x62 1x54 1x54 The Transfer Lawrence Dukore & Lee Schneider
1x63 1x64 1x64 The Shifter Matthew Malach
1x64 1x56 1x56 Dream Master Heather M. Winters & Annabelle Gurwitch
1x65 1x65 1x65 Fond Memories Lee Schneider
1x66 1x66 2x01 Thundercats-Ho! Part 1 Leonard Starr
1x67 1x67 2x02 Thundercats-Ho! Part 2 Leonard Starr
1x68 1x68 2x03 Thundercats-Ho! Part 3 Leonard Starr
1x69 1x69 2x04 Thundercats-Ho! Part 4 Leonard Starr
1x70 1x70 2x05 Thundercats-Ho! Part 5 Leonard Starr
2x01 2x01 2x06 Mumm-Ra Lives! Part 1 Leonard Starr
2x02 2x02 2x07 Mumm-Ra Lives! Part 2 Leonard Starr
2x03 2x03 2x08 Mumm-Ra Lives! Part 3 Leonard Starr
2x04 2x04 2x09 Mumm-Ra Lives! Part 4 Leonard Starr
2x05 2x05 2x10 Mumm-Ra Lives! Part 5 Leonard Starr
2x06 2x06 2x11 Catfight Chris Trengove
2x07 2x07 2x12 Psych Out Sandy Fries
2x08 2x08 2x13 The Mask of Gorgon Romeo Muller
2x09 2x09 2x14 The Mad Bubbler Kimberly Morris
2x10 2x10 2x15 Together We Stand Herb Engelhardt
2x11 2x11 2x16 Ravage Island George Hampton & Mike Moore
2x12 2x12 2x17 Time Switch Sandy Fries
2x13 2x13 2x18 The Sound Stones J. Larry Carroll
2x14 2x14 2x19 Day of the Eclipse Kimberly Morris
2x15 2x15 2x20 Sideswipe William Overgard
2x16 2x16 2x21 Mumm-Rana's Belt James Rose
2x17 2x17 2x22 Hachiman's Honor J. Larry Carroll
2x18 2x18 2x23 Runaways Bill Ratter
2x19 2x19 2x24 Hair of the Dog Chris Trengove
2x20 2x20 2x25 Vultureman's Revenge Herb Engelhardt
3x01 3x01 2x26 Thundercubs, Part 1 Peter Lawrence
3x02 3x02 2x27 Thundercubs, Part 2 Peter Lawrence
3x03 3x03 2x28 Thundercubs, Part 3 Peter Lawrence
3x04 3x04 2x29 Thundercubs, Part 4 Peter Lawrence
3x05 3x05 2x30 Thundercubs, Part 5 Peter Lawrence
3x06 3x06 2x31 Totem of Dera J. Larry Carroll
3x07 3x07 2x32 Chain of Loyalty Bill Ratter & Peter Lawrence
3x08 3x08 2x33 Crystal Canyon Sandy Fries
3x09 3x09 2x34 The Telepathy Beam Kimberly Morris
3x10 3x10 2x35 Exile Isle William Overgard
3x11 3x11 2x36 The Key to Thundera Matthew Malach
3x12 3x12 2x37 Return of the Thundercubs J. Larry Carroll
3x13 3x13 2x38 The Formula Kimberly Morris
3x14 3x14 2x39 Locket of Lies Bill Ratter
3x15 3x15 2x40 Bracelet of Power Bill Ratter
3x16 3x16 2x41 The Wild Workout Becky Hartman
3x17 3x17 2x42 The Thunderscope George Hampton & Mike Moore
3x18 3x18 2x43 The Jade Dragon William Overgard
3x19 3x19 2x44 The Circus Train William Overgard
3x20 3x20 2x45 The Last Day J. Larry Carroll
4x01 4x01 2x46 Return to Thundera! Part 1 Peter Lawrence
4x02 4x02 2x47 Return to Thundera! Part 2 Peter Lawrence
4x03 4x03 2x48 Return to Thundera! Part 3 Peter Lawrence
4x04 4x04 2x49 Return to Thundera! Part 4 Peter Lawrence
4x05 4x05 2x50 Return to Thundera! Part 5 Peter Lawrence
4x06 4x06 2x51 Leah J. Larry Carroll & David Carren
4x07 4x07 2x52 Frogman Kimberly Morris
4x08 4x08 2x53 The Heritage Bill Ratter & Peter Lawrence
4x09 4x09 2x54 Screwloose William Overgard
4x10 4x10 2x55 Malcar George Hampton & Mike Moore
4x11 4x11 2x56 Helpless Laughter Matthew Malach
4x12 4x12 2x57 Cracker's Revenge William Overgard
4x13 4x13 2x58 The Mossland Monster Chris Trengove
4x14 4x14 2x59 Ma-Mutt's Confusion Beth Bornstein
4x15 4x15 2x60 Shadowmaster Dennis J. Woodyard
4x16 4x16 2x61 Swan Song William Overgard
4x17 4x17 2x62 Touch of Amortus Bill Ratter
4x18 4x18 2x63 The Zaxx Factor Matthew Malach
4x19 4x19 2x64 Well of Doubt Dennis J. Woodyard
4x20 4x20 2x65 The Book of Omens William Overgard

This post originally used Stuart Langridge's sorttable but was updated 2014-10-09 to use jQuery, tablesorter, and parser-ignore-articles, and then on 2015-09-25 to use Mottie's tablesorter fork; icons courtesy of Font Awesome.

# Title Writer
01 The Origin Story Peter Lawrence
02 Journey To Limbo Peter Lawrence
03 The Planet Eater William Overgard
04 Save The Sun Peter Lawrence
05 Stop Time Stopper Lee Schneider
06 Darkbird Steve Perry
07 The Backroom William Overgard
08 The Threat Of Drift Bruce Smith
09 Sky Shadow Kimberly Morris
10 Magnetic Atraction Chris Trengove
11 Gold Shield Bruce Smith
12 Zero The Memory Thief Jeri Craden
13 The Milk Run Lee Schneider
14 The Hardware Trap, Part 1 Peter Lawrence
15 The Hardware Trap, Part 2 Lee Schneider
16 Race Against Time Chris Trengove
17 Operation Big Freeze Jeri Craden
18 The Ghost Ship Chris Trengove
19 The Great Galaxy Race William Overgard
20 Fantascreen Steve Perry
21 Hotwing Hits Limbo Peter Lawrence
22 The Bounty Hunter J.V.P. Mundy
23 Zeek's Fumble Peter Lawrence
24 The Fighting Hawks Kimberly Morris
25 The Renegade Hero Leonard Starr
26 One On One William Overgard
27 No More Mr. Nice Guy Chris Trengove
28 Music Of The Spheres Lee Schneider
29 Limbo Gold Rush Steve Perry
30 Countdown To Zero Chris Trengove
31 Amber Amplifier Bill Ratter
32 The Saviour Stone Bob Haney
33 Smiley Bruce Shlain
34 Gotbucks Bob Haney
35 Melodia's Siren Song Lawrence Dukore
36 Tally-Hawk Returns Stephanie Swafford
37 Undercover Danny Peary
38 Eye Of Infinity Kenneth Vose
39 A Piece Of The Action Bruce Smith
40 Flashback Kimberly Morris
41 Super Birds Bruce Shlain
42 The Blue Door Cy Young
43 The Star Of Bedlama Kimberly Morris
44 The Illusionist Jeri Craden
45 The Bounty Hunter Returns Steve Perry
46 The Chase Bruce Smith
47 Switch Beth Bornstein & J.V.P. Mundy
48 Junkyard Dog Bob Haney
49 Window In Time J.V.P. Mundy
50 Gangwar, Part 1 William Overgard
51 Gangwar, Part 2 William Overgard
52 Sneak Attack, Part 1 Cy Young
53 Sneak Attack, Part 2 Cy Young
54 Moon-Star Peter Larson & Alice Knox
55 Diamond Stick-Pin Peter Lawrence
56 Burnout Bill Ratter
57 Battle Cruiser Lee Schneider
58 Small World Kimberly Morris
59 Match-Up Bruce Smith
60 Stargazer's Refit William Overgard
61 The Invisible Destroyer Dow Flint Kowalczyk
62 The Harder They Fall Chris Trengove
63 Uncle Rattler Beth Bornstein
64 Zeek's Power Matthew Malach
65 Airshow Peter Lawrence

Updated 2010-06-27 to make the table sortable, courtesy of Stuart Langridge's sorttable.

Updated 2014-10-09; switched to jQuery, tablesorter, and parser-ignore-articles; icons courtesy of Font Awesome.

Updated 2015-09-25: switched to Mottie's tablesorter fork.

I was 26 before I heard Steve Perry's name, but I was probably 2 the first time I saw his work.

Perry was a writer for Thundercats, a cartoon that's always been dear to my heart. He made the news on comics sites last year, when Steve Bissette revealed Perry was dying of cancer and didn't have a dime to his name.

With help from the Hero Initiative, Perry pulled through, but this past Friday, news came out that he's missing and possibly murdered. Details are incomplete and grisly, and I feel like repeating them here would be exploitative; I'll just give a link to Bissette's blog instead.

But one thing that jumped out at me from that post:

I would welcome a complete listing of Steve's writing credits for [Thundercats and Silverhawks]; please note that the imdb listing for 'Steve Perry' is incorrect, conflating his TV writing credits with another animation writer named Steve Perry (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0675310/), who is possibly the science-fiction novelist Steve Perry. My friend Steve Perry only scripted for story editor Peter Lawrence on the two Rankin/Bass series noted here.

On top of everything else that's horrible about this story, it's not right that Perry's work is not known. And so I've gone through and compiled a list of the writers for each Thundercats episode myself -- I'll publish it in full shortly, but in the meantime, here's a list of Perry's episodes.

  • The Doomgaze
  • Safari Joe
  • Queen of 8 Legs
  • Feliner (2-parter)
  • Tight Squeeze
  • Trapped

(There may be a few more; I'll have to break out my VHS collection to check, as Warner decided some of the episodes on the DVD's didn't need title cards. Or background music. Or to be listed in the correct order. And that the last three years of the show were all the same season.)

Thundercats meant a lot to me. Perry and others filled my youth with fantasy and science fiction and magic and good and evil, with dreams of heroism and nightmares of Mumm-Ra watching me in his cauldron. The news about Perry serves as a jarring reminder of how nasty the real world is, and how unlike those fantasy worlds, where good always triumphs, evil fears its own reflection (at least until season 2), and despite an abundance of weapons, nobody ever really gets hurt.

Gail Simone has suggested honoring Perry by donating to the Hero Initiative, the organization responsible for giving Perry hope this past year. His plight is a tragically common one; there are a whole lot of people in the comics industry who don't see royalties from their work and who can't support themselves later in life.

Thank you, Steve Perry. Justice, truth, honor, and loyalty.

Two posts ago, I argued for more 8-page comic book stories.

A couple weeks back, I picked up Nation X #4, because it had a Milligan/Allred story with Doop. Now, that was pretty awesome...

...but then I realized I'd paid $4 for an 8-page story. I would not have bought the book for any of the other stories in it. The one where the kids raid the fridge was fun, but still not enough to justify the purchase.

So, all this to say, I'd love to see more anthologies like Nation X...except, you know, good.


Playing: Mega Man 10
Reading: Just wrapped Men of Tomorrow.

So, another month, another piece of news on Jack Kirby's heirs seeking termination of copyright transfer from Marvel. And another thread made up of the exact same absurd comments.

For the sake of my time and blood pressure, I've decided to just copy down all the very very stupid comments people keep making, followed by explanations of why they are very very stupid, and just preemptively copy-paste it into the comments thread of every article I see on the subject from now on.

I'll probably come back and revise this post here and there, so if it pops up new in your RSS feed every now and again, well, consider it a Living Document.

(Thanks to Nat Gertler for feedback and corrections.)

Revision notes:

  • 2018-07-12: Updated a Robot 6 link to the Wayback Machine version, as the comments are no longer available on the live site
  • 2011-08-02: Updated to comment on the outcome of Marvel v Kirby
  • 2012-05-23: Updated to discuss the Avengers movie, correct some bits where I conflated modern work-for-hire law with pre-1976 work-for-hire law, and include some brand new clichés I'm sick of seeing
  • 2014-06-24: Rephrased a remark about the now-overturned Superman ruling; updated the instance-and-expense section with some information on the current challenge to the lower court's ruling; updated some dates and links.
  • 2014-09-26: Updated to reflect the news that the case has been settled and will not be taken to the Supreme Court.
  • 2014-10-01: Added a link to a Kurt Busiek post on CBR.
  • 2014-10-10: Added a few more lines about the settlement, and one new numbered comment/response since I've been seeing a lot of the "The Kirbys may not have sued bu they provoked a suit" argument.

Thad Boyd's Preemptive Response to Comments We Are Definitely Going to See in This Thread

  1. "Kirby's heirs didn't do the work, Kirby himself did! Therefore, they don't deserve any money for it!"

    Yes, that money should go to the people who actually did the work. Like Disney. Who could forget Bob Iger's classic run on Fantastic Four?

    Snark aside, there's a valid point to the argument that Kirby's heirs shouldn't get the rights. I personally believe that copyright law lasts far too long and these characters shouldn't belong to Kirby's heirs OR Disney/Marvel at this point, and should be in the public domain. But until that day comes, can we at least acknowledge that Bob Iger didn't contribute any more to the development of these characters than Kirby's heirs did? And that, if Kirby had made more money in his lifetime, he would have left it to his children?

  2. "The Kirbys shouldn't have sued Marvel!"

    You've got it backwards. MARVEL sued the KIRBYS; only then did the Kirbys countersue.

    The Kirbys simply filed a request for termination of copyright transfer; it was MARVEL who responded with a lawsuit.

  3. "The Kirbys may not have sued Marvel, but they knew that filing for termination would RESULT in a lawsuit. The suit is the Kirbys' fault, regardless of who filed it."

    While it is true that the Kirbys would have known that Marvel would probably choose to sue them, it was still Marvel's choice. Marvel didn't have to sue; it could have chosen to negotiate outside the court system.

    As it eventually did, with the final settlement in 2014. Marvel CHOSE years of litigation before agreeing to a settlement.

  4. "Kirby didn't do all the work himself! Don Heck and Larry Lieber co-created Iron Man, Steve Ditko gave him red and gold armor, Joe Simon co-created Captain America, Ang Lee's Hulk is based on Peter David's run, the movie version of Magneto is way more like Claremont's version than Lee and Kirby's, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch made Nick Fury look like Samuel L Jackson, and on and on!"

    I completely agree -- all of those people should receive a share of the profits from the films based on their work, too.

    What I don't understand is taking that line of reasoning to the conclusion that NONE of them should receive anything.

  5. "Marvel can't AFFORD to pay everyone involved in creating the characters and stories adapted in its movies."

    Of course it can. Avengers grossed over a billion dollars.

    It is especially clear, following the settlement, that Marvel can afford to make a deal with the Kirbys -- because it has.

  6. "Isn't it convenient how Kirby's heirs waited until there were successful film franchises based on his work before they asked for the rights back? If it's so important to them, why didn't they do this years ago?"

    Because they couldn't. Copyright transfers can't be terminated until 56 years after the property's creation.

  7. "The Kirby kids should just get jobs!"

    The youngest of the Kirby "kids" was born in 1960. Do you really think they've all just been sitting around, unemployed, for the past several decades, waiting for the moment when they could try and get Dad's copyrights back?

  8. "It was work for hire, so Kirby never had any claim to the rights."

    Yes, that's what the judge ruled on July 28, 2011.

    But consider this: There was no work-for-hire contract. Jack Kirby was a freelancer. There is no evidence that he signed ANY contract with Marvel prior to 1972.

  9. "Kirby was an employee of Marvel, so he never had any claim to the rights."

    No, he wasn't. There was no employment contract. Jack Kirby was a freelancer. There is no evidence that he signed ANY contract with Marvel prior to 1972.

  10. "But he KNEW it was work for hire, because that's just how things were DONE in those days."

    The law does not recognize "just how things were done". What it DOES recognize in determining whether a pre-1978 work was made for-hire is the instance-and-expense test -- that is, did the creator make the work on his own initiative ("on spec") and then sell it, or did he create it at the publisher's request, to the publisher's specifications, and get paid a set rate by the publisher regardless of whether or not the work was published?

    The question of whether Marvel paid Kirby for art it didn't use is key. And the judge's ruling was based on Stan Lee's deposition.

    Other people who did freelance work for Marvel, including Stan's brother, Larry Lieber, said that freelancers were not paid for unused pages. Ultimately, the judge relied primarily on Stan Lee's deposition to support the claim that Kirby was paid for unused pages.

    Marvel's key documents were agreements Kirby signed in 1972 and 1986 claiming his previous work had been done on a for-hire basis. Kirby's agreement, in writing, that this was the case is legally damning, but still not hard evidence that the works actually WERE for-hire; Kirby signed these documents under duress, and the 1986 one was famously a condition for Marvel returning his original art.

    It bears noting that work-for-hire agreements cannot be made retroactively; if Kirby's 1963 work was not for-hire, he couldn't MAKE it for-hire in 1972. Furthermore, the 1972 document itself is contradictory -- it asks Kirby to assign all his copyrights to Marvel, and then suggests he never had any.

    The Kirby heirs attempted to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court; they submitted an amicus brief challenging the instance-and-expense test and its application in the lower court's ruling. Bruce Lehman, former director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, filed an amicus brief arguing that the instance-and-expense test violates Supreme Court precedent. And, ultimately, Marvel chose to settle, just days before the Supreme Court would have decided whether or not to take the case. This suggests that, at minimum, Marvel believed there was a CHANCE that the Kirbys might prevail, and was unwilling to risk that outcome.

  11. "This will destroy Marvel Comics and all my beloved characters!"

    Most of Kirby's characters were co-created with Stan Lee. Stan has already agreed not to seek termination of copyright transfer (presumably because Marvel gave him a much, much better deal than Kirby), so that means Marvel will keep a 50% stake in them no matter what. The Kirbys will not be given editorial control and will not have veto power over Marvel's decisions; all they get is royalty payments -- which, incidentally, Jack never got from Marvel.

    This was exactly how the Superman rights operated between 2008 (when Jerry Siegel's heirs were awarded 50% of the rights) and 2012 (when that ruling was overturned): DC continued to publish Superman comics, they just had to compensate the Siegels.

    Kirby's lack of fair compensation during his lifetime is relevant here: stuff like this doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's too late for Jack or Jerry to get their due, but these legal battles have an impact on still-living creators -- chiefly, publishers will give better deals to their talent in order to keep them happy and avoid future lawsuits. Every time a writer or artist gets a royalty check from Marvel or DC, he has guys like Siegel and Kirby -- and their heirs -- to thank for fighting that fight.

  12. "I work hard at my job, and I don't expect an ownership stake in my work."

    Unless you were doing freelance work in the comics industry prior to 1978, your job is not analogous to Jack Kirby's job, your agreement with the company you work for is not the same as Jack's agreement with the company he worked for, and your heirs' claim to the work you do is not equivalent to Jack's heirs' claim to the work he did.

  13. "So if I built a house --"

    Copyrights are not houses.

  14. "So if I bought a house --"

    Copyrights are not houses.

  15. "So if I sold my house --"

    Copyrights are not houses.

  16. "So if I filed for a patent --"

    Getting closer, but copyrights are not patents, either.

  17. "Marvel lived up to its end of the bargain and doesn't owe Jack anything."

    Even assuming this is true (and I think the King would have something to say about that if he were still with us), you could just as easily frame this as "Kirby lived up to his end of the bargain and his heirs don't owe Marvel anything." Marvel got sole ownership of the copyrights for 56 years, which is exactly what Jack agreed to. That agreement is about to expire. What you're suggesting is that Marvel should automatically get to keep the copyrights for 29 more years than Kirby ever agreed to, in exchange for nothing.

  18. "This is an insult to Jack's memory! He would have wanted all the money to go to Marvel, not his family!"

    Have you ever noticed how most people on the Internet would rather crank out an ill-informed, knee-jerk response than spend the same amount of time using Google to find out whether they're actually right or not?

    Leaving aside the question of how many people would REALLY rather see the profits from their work go to the company they work for than their children, Kirby's relationship with Marvel is a matter of public record, and it wasn't a positive one. He did not feel that he received either the compensation or the credit that he deserved.

  19. "If it was so bad, why did he keep working there?"

    He actually quit, on several occasions, due to disputes with the company: once in the 1940's, again in the 1960's, and finally for good in the 1970's.

  20. "If it was so bad, why did he keep coming back?"

    He came back in the 1950's because the market was crashing and many of the other publishers were going out of business. He came back in the 1970's because he had been offered a better deal than he'd had before -- that was the point at which he sold his rights, though it bears repeating that this was prior to 1978 and the sale would have expired at 56 years from the date of each character's creation.

  21. "Jack Kirby didn't create anything; all he did was design costumes for characters Stan Lee came up with."

    Have you ever noticed how most people on the Internet would rather crank out an ill-informed, knee-jerk response than spend the same amount of time using Google to find out whether they're actually right or not?

    Even if all Kirby had ever done was design the look of characters, that would be sufficient for an ownership stake. But he did considerably more than that.

    Writing at Marvel was a collaborative process. The "Marvel Method" was that Stan would float a plot outline, the artist would draw the pages, and then Stan would fill in the dialogue. Sometimes Stan's outline was detailed, sometimes it was rough, and sometimes there was no outline at all and he wouldn't know what was in the comic until he saw the art. In those cases he'd just write the dialogue -- and even then, he would often use the artist's dialogue suggestions.

    Artists at Marvel had an active role in developing characters and stories. Kirby, Ditko, and others felt that they were not given the credit they were due, and their contributions were underplayed. The fact that you didn't know how much Kirby did and believed all the heavy lifting was done by Lee would seem to prove that point.

  22. "What about Spider-Man? Kirby didn't create him!"

    Kirby worked on an early version of Spider-Man that bore little resemblance to Ditko's final version. I would tend to agree that his claim to Spider-Man is tenuous, but the court may decide that his heirs are entitled to some share in the copyright -- probably not the 50% they'd expect for the Fantastic Four, but some smaller portion.

    I've seen some commenters speculate that the Kirbys never expected to win the Spider-Man rights but asked for them as a tactical maneuver -- in a legal dispute, it's good practice to ask for more than you want, wait for a counter-offer, and negotiate from there. This seems plausible, but Kirby DID claim that he had co-created Spider-Man.

  23. "Marvel took all the risk; Marvel should get all the reward!"

    I see this one all the time, and it's rather baffling. Are you arguing against the very CONCEPT of royalties? Try running that one by most comic book writers or artists today and see how far you get. And that's without getting into other creative industries like books, music, film, and television.

    Aside from that, the notion that Marvel took all the risk relies on the assumption that Kirby was paid whether his work was published or not. Again, while the courts have upheld this claim, it is widely disputed.

  24. "This is unethical!"

    Ethics are personal and subjective. I think it's unethical for a company to pocket billions of dollars on the back of a man it never paid more than a modest page rate, 20 years after his death. You, presumably, believe it's unethical for a dead artist's next-of-kin to try to turn a profit from characters he willingly sold off 40 years ago. We can agree to disagree on the ethics of the situation.

    The law, on the other hand, is much less ambiguous. When Jack Kirby sold his rights in 1972, he did so under a copyright law that stated they would go into the public domain starting in 2014. When Congress changed that law in 1976 (effective in 1978), it changed the terms of the agreements Jack and others had signed. As such, the new law included an escape clause for anyone who had sold his copyright under the old law: he -- or, in the very likely event that he didn't live long enough, his statutory heirs -- could terminate the transfer when the original expiration date came up.

    Whether you think the law is ethical or not, it's the law, and it's not being disputed in this case. If Kirby's works were not for-hire, then he owned a portion of their copyrights, and his heirs are legally entitled to reclaim that portion.

    The size of the portion, and that "if", are the only legal points in question here. Did Kirby sign any work-for-hire contracts? His heirs contend that he didn't, and the court agrees that there is no evidence that he did. Marvel's work-for-hire case is based partially on documents that Kirby signed years after the fact, and partially on Stan Lee's widely-disputed contention that Kirby never worked on spec.

    If this exact same set of circumstances were to occur today -- a freelancer were to create a work without a prior written agreement acknowledging it as work-for-hire -- then the freelancer, not the publisher, would own the rights.

    And if the Kirby heirs could actually produce hard evidence that Jack worked on spec and submitted ideas, on his own initiative, that Marvel never used and that he was not paid for, then that would prove that at least some of the work he did was not on a for-hire basis.

    I can't help thinking that, if any such evidence exists, it was somewhere in the piles of original art that Marvel agreed to return to him and which someone then left unattended next to an elevator.

I grant permission for anybody to reuse this post, in whole or in part, so long as they grant attribution. And don't go nuts with that "or in part" part; no selectively excerpting partial sentences to make it seem like I meant the opposite of what I did.

And, for further reading, check out the following links, which have much more thorough rundowns of what copyright law says, why it says it, and how it specifically applies in the Kirby case:

A few weeks back, I rented Hellboy: Sword of Storms. It was a neat little movie, and adhered pretty well to the the comics' folklore vibe. The highlight was a sequence adapting Heads.

And it occurred to me, you know, the best Hellboy stories are 8-page adaptations of folk tales, in which Hellboy himself plays only a minor role. Similarly, wouldn't it be great to see some 10-minute Hellboy animated shorts?

It's a real pity that both 8-page comic stories and 10-minute animated shorts have fallen by the wayside. DC, at least, seems interested in bringing them back: they've been doing 8-page "secondary features" in some of their popular titles, and next week's animated Crisis on Two Earths will also include a 10-minute Spectre short. Which is the perfect length for a Spectre story.

And of course all this has me thinking, Why 22 pages? Why 22 minutes? Why 6-issue arcs? Stories should take all the time they need; no more and no less.

Which isn't to say that rigid parameters can't foster creativity. The BioWare Writing Contest I participated in a few years back had some very tight guidelines -- only so many characters, only one location allowed, and that location has to be a pretty tiny square. But in a way, that stimulated creativity. Sometimes, you need parameters.

Douglas Adams is a favorite example. His best Hitchhiker's Guide work was written for radio, with a rigid three-act structure and length requirement for each episode, with the requisite pacing those things entail. Those episodes were adapted as the first two books of the Trilogy. The third, Life, the Universe and Everything, was adapted from an unused Doctor Who pitch, so it was conceived around a predefined structure as well. The last two books, where Adams took a more freestyle approach, tended to flail a bit; they were adapted by Dirk Maggs for radio a few years back and, for my money, worked much better with his judicious editing.

(The awesomeness of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul does not fit my narrative as, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't adapted from a radio or TV format. The first Dirk book was, though.)

There are plenty of writers who could benefit from tighter restrictions. Will Eisner put as much plot in a 7-page Spirit story as Brian Michael Bendis does in a 132-page Avengers arc. Sometimes I like longer, decompressed stories that spend more time on the scenery and the atmosphere. But there should still be a place for those weird little Hellboy stories.

I recently read Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Its pacing and form were noticeably different from the typical Fables books, because of its format: it was written as a graphic novel, rather than simply collecting 6 issues of a serial comic.

(A tangent on nomenclature: I absolutely despise the term graphic novel as it is commonly used, ie as a synonym for "comic book" used by people who think they're too cool for Spider-Man. However, it is a useful term when used in its original sense, ie a comic written in long form instead of being serialized in stapled, 22-page, monthly increments.)

Of course, 1001 Nights isn't a graphic novel so much as a graphic short story collection -- far from being a longform Fables story that takes its time, it's a series of stories which are shorter and tighter than a typical issue of Fables. So actually, it's more along the lines of those 8-page Hellboy stories I've been yammering about.

More in the "paced like a novel" vein would be DC's upcoming Earth One books. While it is obvious that these stories need to be published, as nobody has retold Superman's origin story in over three weeks, it's going to be interesting seeing them told with a little more breathing room, without the overwhelming, breakneck pace of Superman: Secret Origin.

I kid, but you know, the nice thing about constantly retelling Superman's origin is that now the Siegel heirs get a cut.

At any rate, once the rehashes are done, it would be quite nice to see DC tell some new stories with these characters in this format -- stories as long or as short as they need to be, at whatever pace suits the piece, without having to speed toward a cliffhanger every 22 pages.

V for Vendetta is actually a decent example -- yes, it was serialized, but its chapters don't fit into a consistent, forced length or pace. And while some of the chapters were climactic action sequences of V stabbing people a lot, others had him simply soliloquizing about anarchy.

(And funnily enough, the guy writing Earth One: Superman is J Michael Straczynski, the same guy whose The Brave and the Bold is currently the best 22-page superhero book that actually tells 22-page stories -- but whose run on Thor was decompressed, organic, and even meandering. Which is not a criticism, as I loved his Thor; it's just a statement that the man can write very well in different formats.)

If the world is a just and beautiful place, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a template for the future of television. It manages the rather neat trick of adhering to a rigid structure that also just happens to be noticeably different from the traditional structure of a TV show: three 13-minute acts, each itself featuring a beginning, a middle, an end, and four songs. It's similar to, but distinct from, the standard three-act structure and 44-minute length of an American TV show.

Even The Daily Show -- God, not a week goes by anymore but one of the interviews goes over. Which is swell, but the way this is handled online is completely boneheaded: if you go to Full Episodes on thedailyshow.com, or view an episode on Hulu, you get the broadcast episode, which shows the truncated interview, followed by an admonition to check out the website, followed by Moment of Zen and credits. I can see this as an unfortunate requirement for broadcast, but guys, Internet videos can be more than 22 minutes. Why in the hell do I have to click through to a different page on the site (or, if I'm watching from Hulu, a different site entirely) to watch the rest of the interview? It's viewer-unfriendly, especially if you use your PC as a media center hooked up to your TV. Cut the full interview into the damn episode. Add an extra commercial in the middle if you have to. (It would be swell if you didn't show the exact same commercial at every single break, but that's a separate presumably-silly-and-useless "rant".)

At least they've wised up a little and started showing just the first part of the interview in the broadcast episode and then showing the rest in the "Full Interview" link on the website. It used to be they'd show a chopped-up version of the interview in the broadcast episode, meaning that instead of the Full Interview link picking up where the show left off, it had five minutes' worth of the same content spread out across it.

You know, it seems like the youngest of the major media is also the one with the least rigid requirements for length. Video games can be anything from a three-second WarioWare microgame to a persistent world that players sink years into. People may grouse a bit that Portal or Arkham Asylum is too short, but it doesn't prevent them from being highly-regarded, bestselling titles.

Which is, of course, not to say that longer games don't have to function under tight restrictions. They're often very high-budget affairs with a hell of a lot of people involved (as Dragon Age tries to forcibly remind you with its absurdly slow credits crawl) -- programmers, writers, artists, and so on. The Mass Effect games have voiced player dialogue and let the player choose Shepard's sex, which means every single one of those lines has to be recorded twice. (And frankly that doesn't seem like enough variety -- I have a Samuel L Jackson lookalike who says "aboot".)

And those restrictions are probably why every dialogue choice in ME is broken up into a predictable paragon/neutral/renegade choice. That kind of very-unsubtle delineation is exactly the sort of thing western RPG developers have been trying to get out of (as in both The Witcher and Dragon Age), but in the context of ME it works quite well -- I've even tried my hand at writing in a three-choices, no-hubs dialogue style and it works very organically. (For the ludicrous amount of dialogue in Dragon Age, there were places I could see the seams showing -- spots where I'd have three dialogue options and, as soon as the NPC spoke, knew that all three led to that exact same response. But that's probably a lot harder to notice if you've never written a dialogue tree yourself, and it's certainly an artform in and of itself, giving a response that works equally well for three different questions. I can only think of one occasion in the dozens of hours of Dragon Age where a writer screwed up and had a question hub that began with an NPC answering a specific question in a way that didn't make any sense if the dialogue looped back.)

And of course it's the medium that allows this kind of longform storytelling. Game length is no longer restricted by the arcade environment. Which is, of course, not to say that short-play games don't get made anymore -- Street Fighter 4 is a high-budget, "hardcore gamer" example, but Nintendo's entire business is built around games a casual player can pick up and play for ten minutes at a time. Ditto every Flash game on the Web, and most games on the iPhone.

And, indeed, Internet delivery is going to liberate other media from their restrictions. Eventually, we're bound to see shows like The Daily Show just run more than 22 minutes if they have to, and, God willing, we'll see more offbeat stuff like Dr. Horrible. The Web's given us comics as diverse as Achewood, Dr. McNinja, Templar, Arizona, and FreakAngels, and cartoons from Adventure Time to Homestar Runner to Charlie the Unicorn to Gotham Girls to the complete version of Turtles Forever. It's also allowed MST3K to continue in the form of the downloadable RiffTrax and the direct-order Cinematic Titanic.

Variety is the spice of life. I love comics -- and yeah, that includes mainstream superhero comics. But I'm sick of all of them having the exact same structure. Fortunately, I think we're on the edge of an age of experimentation.

Or another damn market crash. It is an odd-numbered decade now, after all.

Yeah, okay, so it's been awhile. It's been a busy year. Looks like I missed this site's tenth anniversary by a few weeks, but it was December 9, apparently.

2009. 2009, 2009, 2009. You know, the last two years were straight-up law-of-averages affairs, though in different ways. '08 was pretty mediocre all around; no real highs and no real lows. '09...well, if '08 was a flatline, '09 was a sine wave. It was like the "That's good! That's bad." bit on Simpsons. Alternating highs and lows. The best part of '09 was meeting a very nice girl and finding myself, for the first time in my adult life, in an actual relationship. The worst was losing my uncle. And there were peaks and troughs aplenty in-between.

In other nostalgia-y not-quite-news, I've gone and started another damn KateStory -- I didn't miss that anniversary. The sucker's 15 years old now. I can't believe it's already been 5 years since the 10th anniversary.

I reread all 17 previous installments in preparation. In reverse order. And you know, I learned some things.

  • Brent was right about pretty much everything. Books I-III should probably all be considered one book, VI shouldn't be in there at all, comedy is more important than strict adherence to whether or not I have replaced my watch battery, and Final Fantasy VII is not nearly as good as I thought it was when I was 15. (Chrono Trigger, on the other hand...)
  • Speaking of which, IX isn't nearly as horrifying on a reread as it was a year ago when I had to go through and excise all (well, most of) the adolescent bickering. It's actually better than X. X just fucking drags.
  • Going through the old books looking for "best lines" to reuse in the first chapter of XVIII, most of them were written by Brent. I had a pretty good number of runners-up, but there really weren't any with my name on them where I went, "Yes. That is the best line in this book." Though I threw a couple of mine in anyway for the sake of balance. (Of course, I also focused on lines that would work with the phrase "It was [year], and" prepended to them.)
  • I kinda miss the old days when chapters would cut off in mid-sentence. I should try doing more of those.
  • I've named every single book except KateStory Gaiden, which was McDohl's title. Some of them are well-named (I know Brent's a fan of "Midnight Falls. And can't get up.") and some aren't (I think the reason Book III is "Searching for a Plot" instead of "The Search for Plot" is that the latter was the title of Mad's Star Trek III parody).

I'm seeing end-of-the-decade lists pop up everywhere, but have no great urge to put up any of my own. I can't fucking believe I've got my 10-year high school reunion coming up. Feels like I don't have much to show for it, but on the other hand, I've got a pretty good life, all things considered.

Which isn't to say it can't get better. Here's hoping 2010 continues the past year's trend of wonderful things while ending its trend of terrible ones.

Happy New Year.


Reading: Jeez, haven't read a prose book in months; spending entirely too much money on comics. I just finished Fables vol 7 and Usagi Yojimbo vol 1.
Playing: New Super Mario Bros. and Dragon Age: Origins.

As Tom Tomorrow notes, there seems little left to say about the first black President's inauguration the day after Martin Luther King Day, but it seems like a moment that requires some comment.

So, my two cents: an expression I've heard from many of my elders following Obama's election is "I never thought I'd see the day." Me, I'm twenty-six years old. I always thought I'd see the day.

In closing, a video of Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing This Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (HT: Some Guy with a Website).

A thought: What are we going to call terabytes for short?

Megabytes are megs and gigabytes are gigs, but ters sounds stupid and awkward. So is teras (which only saves one syllable) going to become the norm, or are we going to go the K route and simply say T?

These are the kinds of things I think about.