Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Comics: Who is Jenifer's legal father?

Not to long ago on this here site I mentioned that Dark Horse had snatched up the rights to the famed horror-antho titles Creepy and Eerie. Well, two bits of follow-up.

First, Dark Horse didn't buy up those two titles so much as they entered into an agreement with New Comic Company to jointly create archive editions of previously published material and re-launch the series.

This is significant because – and here's the second bit of follow up – the original writers and artists are worried that they'll be screwed by being shut out of the profits made on any re-issue of their work.

The backstory: New Comic Company was formed in 2007 by the NYC-based Submarine Entertainment and the LA-centric Grand Canal Films to handle the acquisition of the famed titles from Warren Publishing.

Warren Publishing, founded in 1957 by James "Jim" Warren, was responsible for a host of horror titles: Creepy, Eerie, Famous Monsters of Filmland, The Goblin, Monster World, The Rook, Screen Thrills Illustrated, and Vampirella. In a clever move to duck the Comics Authority Code, a self-imposed censorship code instituted in the wake of the Congressionally-lead witch hunt that lead to the collapse of the EC funny-book empire, these titles were classified as "magazines" and not "comic books." The success of these grim not-comics brought Marvel and DC back into the horror game, creating the 1970s horror comic revival. Warren's funny-book empire expanded to eventual include such notable non-horror titles as the The Spirit, a re-launch of the legendary Will Eisner character with covers by the comic master himself.

The role call of folks who worked on these titles is something like a who's who of modern comic art and illustration: Joe Orlando, Neal Adams, Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, Alex Toth, Russ Heath, Wally Wood, Dave Cockrum, Richard Corben, Frank Frazetta, Vaughn Bodé, H.R. Giger, Basil Gogos, and Boris Vallejo among others.

Film-fans who have never picked up a comic book have been exposed through the work of Warren Publishing creators through Showtime's Masters of Horror series: Jenifer and Pelts, two of the series' best episodes, were adaptations of stories from the magazines.

Here's the problem: ever since Warren shuttered its doors, people have debated who truly owns the rights to the work Warren published. This week, New Comics and Dark Horse sounded off with an odd: "We do, but we're willing to share."

Here's the press release:

The publication rights to ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie’ were lawfully and properly acquired in 2007 by New Comic Company from the original copyright holder and publisher Jim Warren and Warren Publishing. Those publishing rights have been reasserted by the renewal of the original copyrights by New Comic Company.

Further, the chain of title was cleared after a bankruptcy of the original Warren entities and subsequent to a lengthy litigation between Warren and Harris publishing.

New Comic concluded a deal with Dark Horse Comics in the spring of 2007 to republish the original editions of ‘Creepy’ and ‘Eerie.’ New Comic Company and Dark Horse have always intended to compensate original creators and welcome their participation in the creation of the archives and in new editions of Creepy and Eerie and look forward to a good working relationship with any reasonable human beings who present themselves. The principals of New Comic Company are devoted fans of the magazines since boyhood, are firmly supportive of artists rights and look forward to re-connecting with former Creepy and Eerie artists and writers.

The take home lesson kiddies? Hold on to those rights.

1 comment:

spacejack said...

I think artists and writers have a lot more choice these days when it comes to holding on to their copyrights. I'm not sure if things have changed as much with superhero comics, but I think most of the smaller publishers will sign deals allowing creators to keep their original artwork and rights to their character creations.

This situation with Warren's old properties has me a bit on the fence... of course I feel that the writers and artists should have the rights to their stuff so that they could be re-publishing their work.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems nice to hear there's a yet un-tapped well of material waiting to be released. It's pretty uncommon these days for something to be truly hard to get or rare.

With the names you listed, I'm already eager to see a re-printing of some of those old issues.

Also, am I the only one who'd like to see a compilation of old Neal Adams Ben Casey strips?