Monday, March 31, 2008

Superman no longer belongs to DC! Sort of.

More accurately, Superman now belongs less to DC. Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel's heirs successfully won back their half of the copyright on Action Comics #1, the very first Superman comic book ever.

The reason this is even possible is due to (a) complicated extensions and rules of copyright law and (b) the fact that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the Action Comics #1 Superman story months before they sold it to DC, so it was an independent work, not work-for hire. After that issue, they became employees of DC, so all the rest of the stuff they did from then on is work for hire.

This means that DC still owns everything Superman-related that anyone thought of following that issue (inlcuding Lex Luthor and Superman being able to fly or have X-ray/heat vision), but don't fully own the other major things that make Superman Superman. For instance:

The Siegels own half of the copyright to everything introduced in the first issue of Action Comics #1, which, really, is the vast majority of everything folks associate with Superman. The name Superman, the secret identity of Clark Kent, the fact that he is an alien who came to Earth from Krypton as a baby, his super strength, invulnerability and ability to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, the red, yellow and blue costume with a red “S” on his chest and a red cape on his back, and his fellow reporter, Lois Lane. The Siegels co-own all of that, which is basically everything.

From the excellent FAQ at Comics Should Be Good!

Other interesting tidbits:
  • DC still owns TRADEMARK rights to Superman, which means no one else can really advertise or market anything Superman-related, even if they lawfully create new works.
  • DC will have to shell out a hunk of money to the Siegel heirs, based on whatever their fair share of Superman profits since 1999 (when they regained their half of the copyright) amounts to.
  • In 2013, again due to complexities of copyright law, the rights of "heirs" vs. "estates," and the intricacies of various extensions on copyrights, Joe Shuster's estate will gain the ability to take back the OTHER half of the Action Comics #1 copyright, leaving DC with no share of that original copyright at all. DC will be left with rights to the derivative works created after the first issue (which may be useless to them, since they're derivative), plus the trademarks. So, at that point, they'll basically just be licensing Superman from the two estates, much like their parent company, Warner, now licenses the right to make Harry Potter movies from J.K. Rowling.
Definitely read the FAQ. It's complex, but interesting. One wonders what this will do to DC's bottom line, if Marvel is even better positioned now for success in the endless duel, and if comic creators and their heirs are scrambling to see if any other works were purchased and not made "for hire."

Marty Gray #061

Marty Gray #061

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wilson's Graphic Novels Core Collection

More look-backs. I must have been dazed when I wrote the entry "More Babymouse in School Library Journal." I only now noticed that the database mentioned by the SLJ piece is called Wilson's Graphic Novel Core Collection. Somehow, I'd love to see Wilson the Weasel as the cover image, sitting in class reading comic books, as he is wont to do.

The vagaries of blogging and image-use rights

I previously posted about a story at Journalista that featured a scanned page from Babymouse: Puppy Love. It's one of my favorite gags from the book, so I posted the linked image in my blog entry.

As I was doing some blog maintenance today, I noticed that the image had vanished. It seems that Journalista's servers felt that I was stealing the image from them (it's called "hotlinking") and cut off my access to the picture.

Fair enough. Um, except that you stole the image from my book in the first place. Today, I stole it right back, and saved a copy of the file to my own server (hence, why you can see it here). So there.

Humph. Darn kids. Get off my lawn!

The Oregonian reviews Babymouse: Puppy Love

In an article entitled "On crayons and pets: two treasures for kids," Helen Babbitt reviews Babymouse: Puppy Love for my city's paper, The Oregonian:

Make room, Clifford and Snoopy, for "Babymouse: Puppy Love," a pink, white and black valentine of a book written and illustrated by sister-and-brother team Matthew Holm of Portland and Jennifer L. Holm. The eighth book in the Babymouse series of graphic novels for beginning readers, "Puppy Love" opens with Babymouse being told that she may not have a puppy. Babymouse tries other pets, all of which escape from their cages. Finally, a lost puppy appears, and Mom caves in.

". . . [H]e's your dog until his owner shows up. You have to feed him and you have to walk him. He's your responsibility, Babymouse. Got it?" Mom's words go in one ear and out the other as Babymouse answers, "Sure!" Babymouse learns the difficulties associated with training a puppy while the narrator calmly notes, "Dogs do like to chew, Babymouse."

The graphic presentation is appropriate for all ages and reading levels. Reluctant beginning readers especially can access the text and appreciate content that is funny and smart without being mean. Sized for little hands, this book, like Babymouse, is small and has a big heart.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Children's Choice Book Awards: Kids--Vote for Camp Babymouse!

These awards are many, varied, and confusing. But here's the gist:

I have to say, the nominees in the CCBA 3rd-4th grade category give me zero insight into this age group. The kids clearly have widely varying tastes: Nonfiction books about wolves and big cats, a re-telling of the King Midas story, book #38 of the Magic Tree House series (dealing with Leonardo), and Babymouse on her summer romp.

Marty Gray #056

Marty Gray #056

Thursday, March 20, 2008

TWO Babymouse books make CCBC Awards List!

That's right—both Camp Babymouse and Babymouse: Skater Girl have been named to the CCBC 2008 best of the year list. (Check the PDF on that page.)

“The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) is a unique examination, study and research library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The CCBC’s noncirculating collections include current, retrospective and historical books published for children and young adults. . . . A vital gathering place for books, ideas and expertise, the CCBC is committed to identifying excellent literature for children and adolescents and bringing this literature to the attention of those adults who have an academic, professional or career interest in connecting young readers with books.”

Marty Gray #054

Marty Gray #054

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Minx, Comics, and YA

An interesting look at the Minx line of graphic novels for girls over at Chasing Ray. (Found via Fuse.)

For me, it's a look at things from the other side of the comics world, the comic-book side. Basically, comic book retailers/producers/fans are under the impression that DC's Minx line is supposed to be some sort of gateway drug into the rest of the comic-book world in general.

As someone who reads a lot of YA and a lot of comics, I think the problem here might be that Minx titles are for YA readers - not comics readers, nor people who frequent comic shops. These books read like YA novels with illustrations, if that makes any sense, and I don't see that they will necessarily lead teenage girls to comics - or that they have anything in common with manga or manga readers. I think the pervasive idea of comics as capes and nothing else will make Minx readers think that this line is something different and not a gateway to see what else DC has to offer. I don't think this is a bad thing mind you, I just think that if anyone is trying to see Minx as a big comics seller then they are looking in the wrong place (and I count the marketing folks at DC in that equation). I would compare it to YA sales - that's its true competition.

They should shelve these books in the YA section of every bookstore and library - they shouldn't worry about being within miles of manga or comics or even other graphic novels. The Minx titles are YA, plain and simple, and YA readers are going to eat them up with a spoon - as soon as they know they are out there.

(As soon as they know they are out there? A quarter-million-dollar marketing budget wasn't enough?) Personally, being in the book world and not the comic book biz, I just looked at it the other way--that DC saw a chance to bite into the YA market (that was only being served by Japanese Manga) and jumped at it. Here's a bit from the old NYTimes article on the Minx launch:

“It’s time we got teenage girls reading comics,” said Karen Berger, a senior vice president at DC Comics. And DC, the comics powerhouse best known as home to Superman and Batman, has a program to make that happen.

In May, DC plans to introduce Minx, a line of graphic novels aimed at young adult female readers, starting with six titles in 2007, each retailing for less than $10. The stories will be far removed from the superheroes who more typically appeal to young males. They include “Clubbing,” about a London party girl who solves a mystery; “Re-Gifters,” about a Korean-American teenager in California who enjoys martial arts; and “Good as Lily,” about a young woman who meets three versions of herself at different ages.

Teenage girls, Ms. Berger said, are smart and sophisticated and “about more than going out with the cute guy. This line of books gives them something to read that honors that intelligence and assertiveness and that individuality.”

As a whole, the line is positioned as an alternative for teenage girls who have, especially in bookstores, become increasing smitten with the Japanese comics known as manga. In 2004, DC started CMX, a manga imprint, to capture part of that audience. The marketing then was similar to that used for DC’s other titles.

“It’s time we got teenage girls reading comics.” Aww. Isn't that cute? (I think she meant, "It's time we got teenage girls reading OUR comics instead of all that Manga.")

I guess it looks like DC tried to do both--get girls into traditional comic-book stores and get a piece of the YA bookstore market--and fumbled.

Marty Gray #053

Marty Gray #053

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Babymouse IPO?

As I mentioned, I've been sick, so when I saw this line in a blog entry, I wasn't sure if someone was being clever or if I had missed some major goings-on in my own little business world:

IBM 2: Well that stock has been on the rise lately, especially when the “Babymouse” IPO went public. I may just take your advice.

Luckily, it was just the former. I haven't been that feverish lately.

Marty Gray #049

Marty Gray #049

Marty Gray #048

Marty Gray #048

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SCBWI Postgame & Babymouse/Kids' comics in the news

Ugh. Flew back East to visit family and participate in a MD/DE/WV SCBWI event at McDaniel College, in Maryland, and instead spent three days in my sister's guest room sick as a dog with an absurd fever. I got through my presentation at the SCBWI conference, but only just barely. As organizer Mona Kerby wrote my sister afterward:

I wondered why he came back early from lunch and then sat quietly with his hat on. Now, I realize that he was doing his presentation on adrenaline.
Unfortunately, Jenni had to drive me home, so we missed the panel discussion. Sorry, folks! If any of you do happen to read this, feel free to send me any questions you were holding.

In brighter news, Babymouse picked up two mentions in the comic blogosphere.

At Journalista:

[Publishing] Paul Gravett looks at the growing market for children’s comics. (Above: our young heroine hasn’t had good luck with pets. Sequence from the latest volume in the Holm’s popular Babymouse series, Puppy Love, © Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm.)

And briefly at the above mentioned, which covers the always-mysterious (to me, anyway) subject of comics consumption in the UK. Why aren't those hooligans reading more comics (like young hooligans in every other country in the world)?

PS—I don't know why, but I love drawing startled fish.

Marty Gray #047

Marty Gray #047

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More Babymouse in School Library Journal

Missed this one: Are Graphic Novels Giving you a Headache?

With titles ranging from Babymouse and Owly (for the elementary crowd) to Edu-Manga (that’s “educational manga” such as biographies and classics-turned-manga for the “must-be-educational” types) to Gundam for high school GN-fans, this database [Wilson’s Graphic Novels Core Collection] will not only provide a wealth of insight into the hottest new format to hit library shelves, but will also provide librarians with a tool to select the best-of-the-best (even if their only exposure to graphic novels is limited to DC Comics and Batman