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DeCARLO v. ARCHIE SUIT DISMISSED

‘JOSIE’ CREATOR WILL SEE MOVIE

[Josie and the Pussycats]

Dan DeCarlo, creator of Archie Comics‘ house style and the characters Josie and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, was dealt a major setback in his battle with his former employer in January, when a federal judge dismissed his lawsuit against the company.

DeCarlo worked for Archie for 43 years before Archie Comics terminated their relationship last spring in response to DeCarlo’s suit, wherein he tried to assert his ownership of Josie prior to the release of the live action “Josie and the Pussycats” film this summer.

The judge’s decision to dismiss the case hinges on a legal term known as estoppel: Essentially, by failing to act in this case after such a long time, DeCarlo was ceding his rights to the creations. He also failed to act during the three year window of allowed for legal action under the 1976 federal copyright law. (The animated “Josie and the Pussycats” cartoon first aired in 1972.)

So why did DeCarlo wait so long to take action?

Archie executive “Richard Goldwater called me over to his house to discuss the Archie strip,” DeCarlo said. “What he really wanted to tell me was — this was a Friday — the next day, Saturday, the cartoon was going to be on.” This was the first DeCarlo had heard about any Josie cartoon. “I had this feeling. ‘What are you doing to me?’ Monday, I was in the lawyer’s office [where he was told] ‘you might win this, get maybe $50,000 … but you’ll be blackballed.’

“So I did try, but I guess I got some wrong advice.”

While the case has been dismissed, DeCarlo’s current lawyer, Whitney Seymour, Jr., has already filed a Motion of Appeal and on Tuesday afternoon filed for a Summary Reversal of the judge’s decision. DeCarlo’s next day in court, concerning both these motions, will be February 20.

“If the court denies that, we ask for expedited briefing of the case, and then we would argue all the other points,” Seymour told the Comic Wire, conceding that, even if the fight isn’t over yet, the case being dismissed was still a serious blow to their cause: “When you get thrown out of court, you get thrown out of court.”

Seymour “seems to think we have a chance,” DeCarlo said. “He envisions a settlement, but I don’t know. I was surprised by the judge’s decision. It’s a federal court, a federal case, and they’re not very sympathetic to the working man.”

DeCarlo and Seymour had tried to make the case that DeCarlo had a commonlaw copyright claim, having done the original work on Josie without a contract — he had originally created “Here’s Josie,” named after his wife, as a newspaper strip — before Archie asked to use the character in their comics. But the 1976 federal copyright law invalidated such claims, according to the federal court.

“The only olive branch they set out was they dismissed Archie’s suit against me,” DeCarlo said. Archie has also come to him, trying to strike a peace deal with him. “They did say ‘out of the respect we have for you, et cetera, et cetera, we won’t go after you.’ They also had a document they wanted me to sign a document that said that I didn’t create Sabrina, and Cheryl Blossom and so on, and I didn’t sign that.”

Ultimately, of course, the legal advice he got back in 1972 was right: He has been blackballed by many of his peers, and as the Comic Wire reported last May, no longer gets work from Archie Comics.

“All the old timers are avoiding me like the plague, but the new guys, the young kids, I’m their hero,” DeCarlo said. “They don’t like what they’re seeing. They’re angry. They figure they’ll be involved in something like this in 20, 30 years.”

That support has meant jobs for DeCarlo, who has been working regularly for Bongo.

“I just finished ‘Radioactive Man,’ the whole book, #136,” written by Batton Lash. “I also do some ‘Scooby Doos’ for DC.”

But work concerns aside, the case and the entire situation wears on DeCarlo.

“I’m hopeful, but then I get depressed, and I wish it would be over, one way or the other. I get depressed at all the lies, from people you thought were your friends.”

[Entertainment Weekly's Spring Movie preview]

As for the movie that precipitated all of these events, DeCarlo is going to be putting down his $8 and seeing it along with everyone else.

“I’m going to have to go see it,” he said. “My granddaughter, who’s a movie buff, is about 23 years old, says the actresses are very popular.” The film stars Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid and Parker Posey.

And whether Archie Comics likes it or not, DeCarlo’s also been drawn into the publicity surrounding the film, including in an interview in the new issue of “Entertainment Weekly,” on sale this Friday.

“My lawyer says ‘if it’s a big hit, you’re in for big money. All we have to do is win it,'” DeCarlo laughed.

“Sometimes I wish it would flop, sometimes I wish it would be a success. I have mixed feelings. But I definitely have to see what they did with it.”

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OH, MY GOD! THEY KILLED CARL!

McCLOUD ENDS FAN-PARTICIPATION STRIP

[Choose your own Carl!]

Scott McCloud, at long last, will stop the violence later this month.

His 1980s one shot “Destroy!” aside, the mild-mannered McCloud doesn’t seem like the sort of person who’d spend his Sunday nights lovingly producing ever more carnage and mayhem to unleash on his fans.

Of course, fans of his Web comic “Choose Your Own Carl,” hosted at his eponymous Web site, know differently.

“It’s almost really impossible to described until you see it,” McCloud told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. “Carl, first of all, is a character that I created in [McCloud’s book] ‘Understanding Comics.’ I created him to be a throwaway character. … But I found there was something very charming about his throwaway nature. … When it came time to do some interactive comics, I grabbed Carl from the toolbox.”

“Choose Your Own Carl” is an audience-participatory project, with McCloud taking suggestions from readers on how to fill in the space between the two panels that he had used to end Carl’s segment in “Understanding Comics.”

In McCloud’s book, Carl’s story had begun with a panel of his mother admonishing him not to drink and drive, and ended with a panel of his tombstone, with a longer story in between. He used the example of Carl’s fatal adventure to explain how the audience’s mind fills in the gaps between panels.

“I then started chopping it down to 20 panels, down to eight panels, down to four panels, then finally down to two panels. And the point was always that those two panels told a story.”

In other words, the final edited version of Carl’s story in the book was simply Carl’s mother telling him not to drink and drive, followed by a panel of his tombstone. When it came time to do an online strip with reader input, McCloud revived Carl.

“This time, rather than leaving the in-between panels up to the readers’ imagination, I’m using the readers’ imagination to fill in the panels.”

McCloud being the experimental sort that he is — as readers of his first “Zot!” Web comic at CBR remember — he decided to run the strips left-to-right like conventional comic strips, but also up and down the page, fitting them together into a crossword puzzle-style strip, with panels that made sense one direction having different meanings when going another.

He also kept the various reader suggestions available for viewing by clicking on the final chosen panel.

“What I found was that the suggestions themselves made kind of a nice parallel story,” McCloud said. “Pretty soon, we had a little community that was growing up. … After I was done with that first little segment, I decided to expand it to six segments altogether, over a hundred panels. It became this big sprawling map.”

But on February 25, the map will be complete when the final “Choose Your Own Carl” panel suggested by one of McCloud’s readers will be posted.

“There are a couple of wonderful ones,” he said. “I think one of my favorite ones is where … there’s a 20 year jump where Carl’s girlfriend is an older woman, talking to a young man who looks exactly like Carl, and he’s saying ‘if only my Dad hadn’t died so tragically,’ and it crossed with a vertical with Carl, and suddenly you had this strange double reality.”

He also got some suggestions over the duration of the strip that weren’t quite as appropriate.

“There was one early on that was just really weird and scary,” McCloud said. “I just went ahead and posted it anyway. I figured anyone who read it would think ‘well, that’s just a weird guy.'”

From the beginning, though, McCloud had forbidden list of suggestions that would be thrown out. Besides issues of taste, there were also rules in place to keep the clichés that spoil so many jam productions from working: No “it was all a dream panels,” nothing that simply revoked what had come before by fiat.

“For this last one, of course, I said nothing is forbidden,” McCloud laughed. “This one guy decided to submit this long pornographic suggestion, with everything asterisked out.”

Amongst the perennial also-rans were a few memorable suggestions.

“I always liked the guy who suggested monkeys. Monkeys in shirts. He would always add something like ‘guaranteed hilarity.'”

One poster formed a “Save Carl Society,” suggesting things like Carl announcing “gee, I’m going to carve my name on my own tombstone” and thus change the meaning of the inevitable final panel.

“Unfortunately, Carl kept dying despite his best strategies, so he changed tactics.”

And this month, McCloud will finally lay poor abused Carl to rest.

“I’m really glad I did Carl, it was a really good experience, but it was enormously time consuming. … It was an ENORMOUS job. I would sometimes take more than four hours to decide what suggestion to use. It was a lot of work for a very small picture,” he chuckled. “And I can’t keep doing that forever.”

But that doesn’t mean an end to the experimentation or the Web comics.

“I will do other interactive comics,” McCloud said. “Carl ended up taking the lion’s share of the site time. … And I would like to reclaim that to do some more comics works.”

Among the ideas McCloud are kicking around for future Carl Web comics are ones with the intriguing names of Infinite Carl and Tear-Away Carl.

And, of course, the finished “Choose Your Own Carl” isn’t going anywhere.

“So far, every Web comic I’ve ever done has remained available, including ‘Zot!’ … And so I expect this stuff to be available pretty much forever.”

Looking back on “Choose Your Own Carl,” McCloud is pleased with the results.

“It was a one joke, trivial, goofy comic that just blossomed into something wonderful. But at the end of the day, it was still wonderfully pointless,” he laughed.

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Zot! Online Message Board

‘HEROBEAR’ RETURNS THIS SPRING

[Herobear]

It was perhaps the comic with the biggest buzz the past summer at Comic-Con International in San Diego. But “Herobear and the Kid” was hampered by the fact that the second issue had only just come out, a year after the first, and at press time, the third issue still hasn’t made it out.

As creator Mike Kunkel explained to the Comic Wire back in August, personal issues arose between the publication of the first and second issues. But fans are about to get more of the boy and his stuffed animal/superhero companion.

“Issue number three of ‘Herobear and the Kid’ will be in the March Previews” catalog, Kunkel told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. “Number four to soon follow. Yeah!”

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‘MARTIAN MANHUNTER’ MINUS MANDRAKE

[Martian Manhunter by Mandrake]

Even the late Jim Corrigan going at last to his final reward couldn’t break up the creative team on DC Comics‘ long-running “The Spectre.” But the Justice League of America can: writer John Ostrander and artist Tom Mandrake, who have been together more than two years on the monthly “Martian Manhunter,” are finally parting ways.

“Yes, Tom is leaving, having gotten a REAL good offer to work on a JLA maxiseries,” Ostrander told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. “Just couldn’t turn it down. I’m staying on the book. Tom’s last issue, which he is both writing AND drawing is #32, I believe. Eduardo Baretto comes on for four issues after that. Nothing set beyond that right now.”

Baretto’s time on the book will be “essentially one story arc going back to J’Onn’s earliest days on Mars,” Ostrander said.

“Martian Manhunter” #32 is scheduled to be in stores this May.

LaJOLLA, WE HAVE A PROBLEM

‘GEN13: SCIENCE FRICTION’ LIFTS OFF

[Gen13: Science Friction #1]

The last time Gen13 went into space, the teen superheroes ended up traveling through time, dealing with older versions of people they thought they knew, and generally dealing with a whole lot of angst.

Don’t expect things to be quite so heavy when the kids end up having another close encounter this April in DC/WildStorm‘s “Gen13: Science Friction.”

“I basically described it as ‘Bill and Ted in Outer Space,'” penciller Matt Haley told the Comic Wire on Monday. “It’s a really simple story, and Tom [Simmons] and I just wrote it as a lark, it’s a lot of fun to just come up with off-the-cuff gags.”

The team goes to see the re-release of one of their favorite science fiction films, but discovers that the cuddly aliens in the film are real and want Fairchild to be their queen.

“I’d have to say that any similarities between characters, places or events in ‘Gen 13: Science Friction’ are entirely coincidental,” Haley said. “(That said, I think the fans can figure out where we’re coming from in this story!)”

“There is not one particular sci-fi movie or TV show that spawned this story,” inker Aaron Lopresti told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. “However, there are many references to sci-fi movies and shows through out the comic. Star Trek and Star Wars being the most obvious.”

“Science Friction” is just one of a long line of Gen13 specials and spin-offs, many of which have attracted bigger name creators than might seem merited by the not-always-spectacular sales of the book.

“The reason creators are so attracted to Gen 13 projects is because of the inherent comedic elements,” Lopresti said. “Most comics take their characters very seriously and allow very little room for humor. Because of the series’ light hearted approach, the story possibilities are practically endless.”

“Actually, the appeal for me was Grunge and Burnout!” Haley said. “I mean, sure, Fairchild was a lot of fun to draw, but story-wise, Bobby and Grunge are a real treat to write, mainly because they’re so clueless!”

As for the future, Haley is looking at possibilities both inside comics and beyond.

“Right now I’m focusing on a feature-film pitch with the producers of ‘Mage’ for Spyglass, and a two-issue stint for a French publisher on an adaptation of a PC game called ‘Alone in the Dark’ … what I’m really looking for is a regular cover gig, and the opportunity to do character design. We’ll see …”

For fans of Lopresti’s “Atomic Toybox” who have been waiting for the next chapter, “there is no good news in the immediate future for ‘Atomic Toybox,’ unfortunately,” Lopresti said. “I feel horrible that I was only able to publish one issue. I know there are some fans out there for the book and if I could publish more I think more people would discover it and like it. If I had known that orders on the book would drop so drastically from issue one to two, I would have done a self contained one-shot.

“I am, however, trying to figure out a way to do more. But I am afraid the only way is to have a large publisher pick it up.”

“I just have to interject here that Aaron is one of the most under-appreciated artists in comics today, and I have learned more from him than any other artist,” Haley said. “He taught me how to ‘spot blacks,’ and I’ve also learned a great deal about panel composition from him. It was a real coup to get him to ink this project!”

Related Information
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PREVIEW: Gen13: Science Friction #1
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COMIC BRIEF: THE QUICKENING


Here’s what’s news and press releases in CBR’s Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire, with all of the pleasure and none of the guilt:

  • Usenet Squiddy awards announced, CBR wins twice
  • Denny O’Neil to become Consulting Editor and Exclusive Writer at DC
  • The “10th Muse,” “Savage Dragon” Join Forces

AND FINALLY …


A very special thanks to Sandy Hausler.

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