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Cartooning & Comic Art

Artists, Money, and Envy

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 26, 2015

Colleen DoranWhen the San Francisco Gate reported that author Danielle Steele’s assistant embezzled $400,000 from her accounts, many comments to the article relished the author’s financial woes. The rancor of comments led cartoonist/writer Colleen Doran to muse on the conflicted relationship artists have with money. It’s a situation made toxic by low expectations, envy, and hackneyed stereotypes.

In Art and Money, Doran describes her pursuit of financial stability as a bid for freedom to pursue her art — a habit of fiscal prudence she shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet artists who are financially successful are met with scornful envy. Doran writes:

“What sick mixed messages this ambivalence about material success sends to creators. They are constantly told they are fools for being artists, doing work for the love. Then they are told they are fools for doing art for money. They are fools for not managing money well. Then they are told that artists are constitutionally incapable of handling money because they are foolish artists.”

(Fitzgerald is spared this abuse because he died practically destitute, although because of his wife’s overwhelming medical bills, rather than any artistic financial ineptitude.)

The point of Doran’s article is one that she repeatedly makes: knowing how to manage money can make the difference between being a full-time artist, or one held back by juggling thankless part-time jobs. Buying into the stereotype of the starving artist, and denigrating those who are successful only holds artists back from realizing their goals as creators and successful business owners.

Photo of Colleen Doran used with permission.

In Memoriam: Charlie Hebdo

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 12, 2015

Graphic Artists Guild members have been contributing artwork in the memory of the cartoonists and staff killed at Charlie Hebdo’s offices last week. Below is a sampling of the submissions.

All artwork is copyrighted to the artist, and used with permission.


© JP Schmelzer JP Schmelzer


© Michael DaterMichael Dater


Doug Jennings


© Lisa ShaftelLisa Shaftel


© Diane Barton Diane Barton


© Jennifer MertzJennifer Merz


Anonymous World Citizen

Guild Statement on Charlie Hebdo Shootings

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 07, 2015

The Graphic Artists Guild stands in support of our French colleagues, and the freedom of expression of all authors and creators. Our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the journalists, cartoonists and staff at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.


To see examples of Charlie Hebdo's satirical covers, visit the review on The Daily Beast.

Marvel Comics Settles with Estate of Jack Kirby, and Includes Creators’ Credit

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 08, 2014

Marvel ComicsAt the end of September, Marvel Comics announced a settlement of a long-standing copyright dispute with the estate of Jack Kirby, the comic book artist who co-created many iconic superheros, such as Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, and The Incredible Hulk. The settlement was announced a few days before Supreme Court Justices had scheduled a call that was due to discuss whether or not the high court would consider the case. Although the terms of the settlement have not been revealed, The Hollywood Reporter has reported that new issues of Marvel Comics now include a credit line, “Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby” on the back cover.

The settlement represents a tenuous victory for the Kirby estate. In 2009, after Disney reportedly paid $4 billion dollars to purchase Marvel, the Kirby estate issued copyright termination notices on 45 Marvel characters, as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976. The case bogged down in court, and seemed to be over for the Kirby estate in 2013, when the Second Court of Appeals determined that Kirby’s work was created under a work-for-hire agreement, and that Marvel is considered the statutory owner. The estate of Superman creators, Siegel and Shuster, suffered similar legal setbacks when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2001 agreement the estate signed with DC Comics was legally binding, negating an earlier ruling from 2008 which reverted copyrights to the estate.

The estates of both Jack Kirby, and of Siegel and Shuster filed a petition to have the Supreme Court overturn the lower court rulings. Their efforts gained traction when amicus briefs were filed by numerous copyright experts and pro-creator organizations, including the Graphic Artists Guild. On October 6, the Supreme Court refused to hear intervene in the copyright dispute, offering no explanation (which is typical in such decisions). While the settlement with the Kirby estate brings some comfort to creators, the lack of a Supreme Court hearing means there still in no clarification on the issues raised by the lower court rulings. As the University of Miami Law Review reported, “The Kirby brief concludes that the lower court’s overly broad interpretation of the “instance-and-expense” test will subject artists’ rights to “revisionist history” and will unjustly deprive them of their property rights by creating an “almost irrebutable presumption that any person who paid another to create a copyrightable work was the statutory ‘author’ under the work-for-hire doctrine. Assuming that someone paid these independent contractors during that time period, it seems that almost no one could benefit from the 1976 Copyright Act’s termination rights provision.”

Guild joins Amicus Brief in Support of Comic Creators & Artist

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 11, 2014

Seal of the Supreme CourtOn July 22, the Graphic Artists Guild joined the National Writers Union (NWU), the  Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in signing on to an amicus brief on behalf of the heirs of the creators of  “Superman,” Siegel and Shuster, and Jack Kirby, an early Marvel Comics artist. The brief supports the rights of both families to sue DC Comics and its parent company, Warner Brothers, and Marvel, respectively, to recover the original copyrights to the work of Siegel and Shuster, and of Kirby. The families of Siegel and Shuster, and of Kirby, are seeking to have the US Supreme Court hear their appeals of two Circuit Court decisions which rejected their attempts to regain the copyrights.  
 
Siegel and Shuster, the co-creators of the Superman series, originally signed away their rights to the character in 1938. Their heirs unsuccessfully sought to terminate DC Comic's copyrights to the work by issuing statutory notices of termination in 1997 and 2002. In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court stripped Shuster's heirs of termination rights, a ruling that according to NWU ignores the Supreme Court's opinion in the landmark case NY Times v Tasini (2001), which ruled that termination rights are inalienable. Kirby's heirs sought to terminate Marvel’s copyrights to his artwork, a move which Marvel countered in 2010 by suing the Kirby family for declaratory relief that Kirby's work fell under the work for hire exception to the Copyright Act. The judge hearing the case ruled in favor of Marvel, and the ruling was affirmed by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013.
 
While the Supreme Court has not yet stated that the petition will be reviewed, indications are good. Marvel initially refused to respond to the petition, but was asked by the justices on May 14 to file a response. The petition has been distributed to the justices for conference on September 29. A ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of the heirs to Siegel, Shuster, and Kirby would have wide implications on the interpretation of the copyrights of independent contractors and creators.

 

For clarification on “all rights,” “termination of rights,” and “work for hire,” visit our Contract Glossary.

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