Sunday, November 14, 2010

Coober Skeber

The story behind Coober Skeber 2: Marvel Benefit Issue has been recently covered at the Comics Comics blog. I probably became aware of this anthology of short stories featuring Marvel characters as done by alt comix creators over at the late comix@ mailing list. I was able to buy a copy around 1998 at Montreal's Librairie Astro for 5 Canadian dollars, I believe. (I was in Montreal for a business trip, but I managed to make time for visiting the local comic stores, including the now-defunct La Mouette, one of the classiest comics stores I've visited.)

Coober Skeber paved the way for DC's two Bizarro Comics anthologies and, of course, the more recent Strange Tales series that have been published by Marvel. But despite these recent attempts at doing something similar, there is still something unique about this small artifact, printed in black-and-white, and featuring artwork done by young creators riffing on characters such as Deathlok, Spider-Woman, and Devil Dinosaur. I remember bringing back home several comics thanks to that Montreal trip (Chaland books, issues of L'Association's Lapin, Steve Canyon reprints, and other stuff), but Coober Skeber was certainly one of the most memorable.

The original comic may be difficult to find these days, but it has (recently?) been scanned and made available among all the scans of new comics that appear each week. The download link is here, so if you haven't seen the book before now there's a chance to enjoy it in its entirety.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Steve Rude update

About a month ago, Steve Rude's friends and fans helped publicize a series of auctions to help Rude prevent the loss of his home. Rude's latest newsletter brings the following good news:

Well, it's nice to know we still have a nice house to live in.

In fact, thanks to this amazing "save the house" fundraiser you contributed to, we were even able to order a few extra art supplies for the Dude. Perhaps the most shocking of all--we may have enough left over to supplement the Sillies Emergency Diaper Fund. Yes, they still have their accidents.

When I saw the bread coming in after Gino made her announcement (this was unbeknownst to the oblivious Dude), I was, and still am, in a mild state of stupefication. The outpouring of generosity was clearly far beyond what Gino and I could've asked for. Your contributions poured in from all corners of our planet; the sizeable backstock of comics and Dude related "higher reading paraphernalia" were ordered by the spit-load; and Erik Larson [sic] bought his complete Next Nexus 3 issue!

All said, we saved the house.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mattotti illustrates Lou Reed's "The Raven"

The Raven by Lou Reed and Lorenzo Mattotti

An edition of Lou Reed's The Raven (based on his 2003 record) illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti has been recently released in Europe. And it seems an English-language edition will be available from Fantagraphics next year.

The story behind the book: in an article published in, Mattotti tells how Lou Reed phoned him a couple of years ago, telling him he loved his Jekyll and Hyde book and that he wanted him to illustrate Reed's book. It seems Reed and Art Spiegelman share the same literary agent, and that Spiegelman pointed Reed in Mattotti's direction.

All of the above came to my attention when I stumbled upon a news account about Reed having fallen asleep during a presentation of the book (while Mattotti was speaking). Here's hoping the book comes out at the scheduled date, despite the .. er ... skepticism of some regarding the publisher's publication dates.

A PDF preview of the Spanish-language edition can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dot & Dash

From the Spanish blog La Cárcel de Papel comes news that Cliff Sterrett's Dot & Dash strip (a "topper" strip that ran on the same page as Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals between 1926 and 1928) has been reprinted by Portuguese publisher Manuel Caldas.

(Shown above: an example of how both strips looked together on the same newspaper page. The upcoming IDW book should reprint the pages in this format.)

This is a 64-page book with an introduction by Domingos Isabelinho. Caldas is a publisher known for the quality of his archival projects, and this new book shouldn't disappoint. Samples from the book can be seen at La Cárcel de Papel.

Caldas is also reprinting Warren Tufts's Lance in Portuguese and Spanish editions. Samples of the strips can be seen at

Friday, November 5, 2010

What's missing from this book?

I just received a copy of the new Adventures of Superboy hardcover, reprinting stories published between 1945 and 1947. I look forward to reading this soon, but in the meantime I made a quick checklist of what is and isn't included in this volume.

  • New cover by Michael Cho? Check
  • The Superboy stories from More Fun Comics #101 to #107, and Adventure Comics #103 to #121? Check
  • Covers to the original issues? Most of them. (I assume all covers featuring Superboy were included, which sounds reasonable.)
  • Credits for writers and artists of each story or cover? Check
  • Credit for the editor of the original stories? Check (Jack Schiff, in case you were wondering)
  • Some sort of introduction or article describing the origin of the character or the contents of the book? No
  • Text at the beginning of the book, or the indicia, or the contents page or anywhere else saying "Superboy created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster? NOWHERE TO BE FOUND

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gary Friedrich loses Ghost Rider lawsuit

Back in 2007, Gary Friedrich sued Marvel and other companies for copyright infringement regarding the use of the Marvel character, Ghost Rider, in different media. Basically, he claimed that the copyright to the character and his first appearances had reverted to him in the year 2001. A check through recent filings reveals that Friedrich (or more accurately, "Gary Friedrich Enterprises, LLC", a Friedrich-created company to which he transferred his copyrights) has lost his lawsuit, since Marvel and the other defendants' motion to dismiss has been granted.

A year ago, Judge James C. Francis recommended the dismissal of Friedrich's claims (the link requires free registration), indicating that the 1976 Copyright Act (which specifies stricter terms regarding work-for-hire creations) should apply to this case, rather than the 1909 Copyright Act as Friedrich's lawyers had claimed (which would have presumably allowed Friedrich to renew the copyright 28 years after the character's original appearance in 1972).

A more recent filing by Judge Barbara S. Jones from last month confirms Judge Francis's "R&R" (Report and Recommendation), dismissing Friedrich's objections to it:

"For the following reasons, the Court adopts the R&R, overrules Plaintiffs' Objections, and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss."

An examination of the actual legal reasoning behind this decision is frankly beyond my ability. Unlike the documents related to the Siegel family's claims to the Superman copyrights, these documents don't reveal any details about how specific comic-book industries conducted their business or interacted with creators. Marvel and the film, toy, and gaming companies involved in the lawsuit were able to dismiss the suit without there being any need for the judges to go into this detail.

All of the above is very disappointing for those of us who would like to see creators like Friedrich get a fairer share of the profits generated by their creations. There are rumors indicating that Friedrich may have settled out of court; I hope that's the case but I'm not very optimistic.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Missing "Our Gang" page found

Some years ago, I reviewed the second of Walt Kelly's Our Gang volumes published by Fantagraphics. Back then I'd noticed something strange in the second story reprinted in that book:

There's a strange transition between pages 44 and 45 of this edition: in the last panel of page 44 one sees the soldiers preparing to escape from their hideout, without knowing that they are being watched by the kids's friend, Captain Dan, who's holding a rifle. [...]

In the next page, we're in a completely different scene, with Froggy telling the other kids: "So I showed the cap'n how to aim it an' told him the exact pusychological [sic] time to fire an' -". The implication is clear (the Captain shot the Japanese while they were trying to escape), but the transition is a bit too sudden. The episode as reprinted in this volume is only 11 pages long, while the two previous episodes and the very next episode have 12 pages each. My first thought was that Fantagraphics may have accidentally skipped a page, but a likelier explanation could be that Kelly's editors decided to drop the page in which we see the Japanese soldiers being shot, figuring that such a thing might have been too strong for a children's comic, war or no war.

As it turns out, the simplest explanation was the correct one: this edition is missing a page that was included in the story's original appearance in Our Gang Comics #11. Since this issue was scanned some months ago, I'm able to include the original page (scanned from microfiche, so the quality isn't that good) here:

So there you have it, the original page in its uncensored glory. Hopefully this will be included in future printings of Fantagraphics's series.