Friday, September 07, 2007

Another (Audio) Blast from the Past...

Oh, dear.

At the movie theaters, it's the '70s all over again -- I mean, in the past couple of weeks, I've malingered in local theaters will various remakes and retreads prompting flashbacks: The Invasion (an honorably and mostly effective addition to the Jack Finney-novel-spawned Invasion of the Body Snatchers pantheon; has any single sf novel -- outside of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- become such a touchstone to each generation's reinterpretation?), Halloween (Rob Zombie remaking Texas Chains -- oh, I mean, John Carpenter's gem -- and Tobe Hooper/Kim Henkel's classic, a misbegotten fusion of '70s genre landmarks), Death Sentence (based on Brian Garfield's followup novel to Death Wish, and very much of a piece with that '70s vigilante blockbuster hit)... you get the idea. Incredibly, Jodi Foster is soon gracing screens in a pseudo-remake of Abel Ferrera's Ms. 45 which lifts its title from a forgotten-by-most 1950s boy-and-his-bull sleeper, The Brave One. At least that'll put us in the '80s.

And online, it's 1990 all over again.

  • The one and only Blake Bell is 'rebroadcasting' my interview with Scott McCloud and Gary Groth here,
  • while the download "Creators' Rights 20 Yrs Later? Classic mp3s of Groth, McCloud, Bissette" awaits you here. Same thing, either stop.

  • Where ever you choose to listen or download, it all brings back other memories -- good and bad -- for this old geezer and vividly reminds me how while some things have changed for the better, others are worse in terms of Creator Rights. The dirty little secret is that work-for-hire in the internet era is as prevalent and destructive as ever.

    More on that another day, another post, when time permits a proper overview, update and rant... in the meantime, plug into the interview from 17 years ago, when the ire and passions were fresh and raging. Special thanks to
  • Blake Bell, Steve Ditko expert extraordinaire (with whom I share an introduction venue in the new Marvel hardcover collection of Amazing Adventures/Amazing Adult Fantasy; more on that later)
  • and Al Nickerson,
  • whose ongoing venue for further discussion and exploration of Creator Rights is as vital as ever. Why aren't more of you (especially you young creators) using this venue?

  • It's the complacency of many of my peers and the generations since 1990 that has led us down this 21st Century path, where work-for-hire and Vertigo contracts are still a sorry status quo.

    Have a great Friday; the new semester at the Center for Cartoon Studies begins today! I'll be busy...

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    Blogger AlNickerson said...

    Howdy Steve,

    Thanks for the mention. And thanks for being so passionate on the topic of Creator’s Rights.

    One would think that most publishers, by now, would have taken greater strides on the issue comic book Creator’s Rights. With the exception of Image Comics, I don’t see that happening. DC Comics new webcomics venture, Zuda Comics, and the likes of Platinum Studios try to come off being creator-friendly, when, in reality, they (as far as I can tell) really are not.

    Al Nickerson

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    Actually, Al, outside of comics and the gaming industry (whose abusive work-for-hire practices are often even worse than the comics industry), the gestalt has happened.

    The book industry's embrace of graphic novels -- however lasting or fleeting that may prove to be -- has made it possible for many cartoonist to finally be treated as most authors have been for two centuries.

    The problem is, the comics industry has re-learned the lesson from Hollywood comics/graphic novel films -- lock it all down legally, own it all -- and a generation of creators have accepted those terms as status quo, including the one-time self-publishers who once championed (and built their own personal fortunes) on their own creator rights. That this realignment occurred simultaneously with the implosion of the direct sales market and institution of the Diamond distribution monopoly has established the 'norm' that is now a full decade old.

    Blogger AlNickerson said...

    I agree that (traditional) book publishers do seem to offer better deals to creators than the majority of comic book publishers. I was referring only to comic book publishers in my above post.

    I am happily surprised by the popularity of graphic novels and Manga (although, I’m not a big fan of Manga). This is a hopeful sign that comics can and will be read if they are made available to a larger audience. If they are distributed outside the direct market. I’m not quite sure if this is the future of comics, but we do need another form of distribution other than Diamond.

    Blogger AlNickerson said...

    Speaking of graphic novels and book publishers… have you heard about the Random House and DC Comics deal…?

    "After two years of being distributed to the book trade by Hachette Book Group (which purchased Warner Books in early 2006 which distributed DC titles for more than twenty years prior), DC Comics will be distributed to the book trade by Random House beginning in 2008. DC will continue to be distributed in the Direct Market by Diamond."

    I’m guessing this isn’t such a big to-do since DC Comics had their books previously distributed by Hachette Book Group. However, I’m sure Diamond would love to have their hands on this job.

    Recently, a creator friend of mine has chosen to self-distribute his new trade paperback. Diamond had passed on distributing one of his latest books. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands. This reminds me of when Dave Sim started to (partly) distribute his CEREBUS phone books on himself in the mid-80’s. Now-a-days, with print-on-demand,, and Pay Pal, creators have more control on distributing their own comics.

    Anonymous Gary Groth said...

    Hi, Steve.

    This is something I've been meaning to ask you for awhile, but we don't often have a chance to talk much; this time seems as good as any.

    How do you feel about your school's involvement in work-for-hire? As you know, CCS entered into a partnership with Hyperion where students, faculty, and other creators are producing books on a work-for-hire basis. I understand the reasons for it myself, as related to me by James Sturm, but understanding the reasons is not the same as liking them and it seems somewhat ominous to me and particularly problematic for a school to endorse the practice (not to mention profit by it).

    I haven't re-listened to our conversation but I remember it being a fine free-for-all.

    Gary Groth

    Blogger SRBissette said...

    Hey, Gary -- email me -- -- and let's make a time to chat.

    As I've adopted from time to time as benevolent/beneficial-to-the-freelancer a permutation of work-for-hire that I can in my incremental work on the N-Man/Fury/Hypernaut projects, and have had some heady experiences with work-for-hire in the late '90s and more recently, I'm happy to talk about the legal principle and its ramifications -- as I am/do with the students -- with quite a bit more experience than I had under my belt when we talked in 1990.

    Just an up front caveat, though: I neither represent CCS in conversation, nor am I involved in the facet of the CCS universe you are raising. For that, talk to James.

    Other than that, I do have a CCS-related (summer freelance gig that turned into a six-month gig) work-for-hire experience I can discuss that was an educational experience for all involved. This led to my setting my own clear personal parameters for bringing work/projects to the students's attention, which I can also discuss, but again, these views do not in any way represent CCS -- just moi.


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