Posts tagged Daniel Best

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The Trials of Superman

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Readers who frequent Daniel Best’s blog, 20th Century Danny Boy, are likely familiar with his coverage of prominent intellectual property rights trials and stories of late, including the Jack Kirby Estate VS. Marvel and the Jerry Siegel Estate VS. Warners/DC Comics. He’s been able to get his hands on an extensive amount of court transcripts, contracts and other documents relating to these and many more happenings in the comics periphery. His postings have practically pioneered a surge in documenting this type of material, and making it accessible to the public.

Daniel has now compiled the extensive documentation from the Siegel Estate VS. Warners/DC trial into an online book that he’s offering for free download in PDF format. The Trials of Superman is published by his own imprint Blaq Books. A polished presentation that transcribes the original documents into digital format, made much easier to read considering the shear volume of material. Having read some of it in the original postings, I recommend this book highly for some behind the scenes history of the comics industry, as told under oath.

Daniel sums up the book on his site:

Every word uttered in court is here – with one notable exception – and the testimonies of Mark Evanier and Paul Levitz are fully intact.  You’ll read Levitz explain the many deals done for Superman from an insider point of view and how DC Comics very nearly bought Marvel Comics in the late 1990s.  You’ll read Evanier discussing how Siegel and Shuster have been screwed over the decades, along with mention motion picture and entertainment experts giving their own views on just how valuable the Superman property is.

THE TRIALS OF SUPERMAN

Blaq Books, Australia | 2012 | 1055 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9807655-2-6
Compiled and edited by Daniel Best
Copyright © 2012 by Daniel Best 

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Have Peace, Jack Adler

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Alan Kupperberg posted a photo tribute to Jack Adler yesterday on his Facebook page… and added a memorable thought in the caption:

When I went to work for Jack at NPP [DC Comics] in 1971, he became my first “professional” father.

That’s pretty much how I felt about Jack when I started work for DC in 1975, and not only in the professional sense. Jack Adler was a warm, spontaneous and caring fatherly figure to a lot of younger creators who depended on him to help make our work look good within the printing limitations of that time. He is said to have been the foremost authority on mechanical color separation techniques used in comics before the advent of digital color processing.

Jack Adler was a comics artist in a very prolific sense of the phrase. As early as the 1950’s, he began bridging the gap between full color scanned image printing and the flat mechanical separations used in comics. The covers he presided over in that era gave the feel of painted pulp covers, which was no small feat back then, considering the technical limitations. He acquired a thorough knowledge of the processes by which comics art was being handled by printers and dedicated himself to learning every aspect of it. But he didn’t simply settle for knowing this information as an asset for getting by a day’s work. Jack saw an opportunity to create a richer palette and look for comics. His contribution to the visual narrative during a time that flat color dominated much of the work, is more immense than most industry professionals can imagine.

  

When I landed at Continuity and started working for DC, I became part of a creed that contended with the cost effective constraints of getting better visual results for our work. Many of us at the studio would approach the art as if it’s meant to see print in full, true and glorious color, even though we often knew the disappointment of seeing an unfulfilled printed image. A strong memory from that time remains about Neal encouraging everyone to learn the pre-print processes as thoroughly as possible, and utilize that knowledge in preparing our work. It was all worth it, he’d say, because we have a friend and ally in Jack Adler, head of the production department at DC Comics.

Jack Adler - Portaits of the Creators Sketchbook

Mark Evanier posted yesterday about Jack passing away over the weekend at the age of 93, and adds a compelling biographical short. Daniel Best also posted a tribute that includes more words and art about Jack by Alan Kupperberg.

Have peace, Jack. The industry and its creators salute you for the care and dedication that’s helped make us and the comics become all the better.

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Creator Revolution 1st Semester Grades

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SIGN THE PETITION

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It seems the creator revolution, as dubbed by Heidi MacDonald, is taking a mid-semester break.

It is expected actually because how many really engaging ideas can Indie creators come up with for dodging comics shops and DC/Marvel’s dominance of publishing? Adding to this venue is the stifling notion that most news sites don’t seem interested in the subject as they load their web pages with more and more fluffy and fun news about the colorful projects and creators making headlines.

But I’m of the mind that we have to take ourselves more seriously sometimes, like a lot of us did in school – and that everything doesn’t only have to be fun and fluffy.  In school we had to take things seriously if we wanted good grades.  And I don’t think it’s serious to talk about a creator revolution when we’re in denial about what we’re revolting against.

By default, a revolution means an overthrow of an undesirable regime. So, patting ourselves on the back as if we’re conducting a revolution when we’re acting more like scaredy teenagers seems silly at best. We have to get our hands dirty to start rebuilding our fallen house of comics.

This is my virtual class on the creator revolution, and for lack of anyone else stepping up, I’m going to be the teacher who grades everyone.  Until I see an initiative better than the petition cited at the head of this page, everyone’s grades will be relative to their position on it. No offense really intended to any of the students. If you want a better grade, study the situation with a little more depth to understand why we need to promote and sign the petition. Or you can make your own virtual class and grade it as you like.

Here we go with the class report card.

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Eric Powell: (A+) – Well done Eric for getting the ball rolling with your poignant and hilarious video. The serious message that followed the first… ahem, act… is one of the more inspiring observations the class has seen. Unfortunate that your fellow students couldn’t bear your message and compelled you to remove the video. But it did its job in opening the dialogue and for that you are commended.

Steven Niles: (C+) – That you are an extremely talented writer may not be enough for a good grade in the class of the creator revolution. Your well received article in response to Eric’s video fed the fears of your fellow students and discouraged their courage.  What do you mean by “First off, this is in no way an anti-Marvel or anti-DC thing. Those are great publishers to work for if you can find the work.”?? This is a revolution class! Not for smoochy goochy with DC and Marvel. Let’s do some more homework, sir.

Kurt Busiek: (C+) – You’re also an amazingly talented writer with a lot of credits in comics, but the revolution needs more than good comic books right now. It needs the courage to stare into the eyes of the undesirable way the business is being strangled, dominated and neglected by DC and Marvel who seek greener pastures outside of comics.  Your challenging the teacher’s comments as if to say that the big 2 are working in good faith for the good of the industry, is an extreme case of denial – not the river in Egypt.  It is not the best way to get a good grade in the revolution against an oppressive regime holding down the comics.  A little more consideration of human nature, my good fellow, could help improve the grade in the next semester.

Mike Dubisch: (A+) – You’re a brilliant artist and creator with a heart of gold and courage of a tiger, who drew me into the class with a call to hear me out, after challenging Steven for his kid gloves treatment of DC and Marvel. The revolution needs you Mike, right up there in the top ranks of leadership.

Tom Spurgeon: (A+) – You’re a light to your fellow class members. The clever way you fed the fire of revolt is nothing less than brilliant.  But the articulate speech you delivered to explain what we’re up against will become a lesson for generations to come.

Rik Offenberger: (A+) – You were not only a trailblazer for the comics on the internet, but are now also trailblazing the way for the creators with your excellent interview. With it, you’ve paved the way for the dialogue that needs to now be nurtured amongst the creators, reporters and fandom.

Heidi MacDonald: (B-) – You know I think you’re one of the more promising students, and you are the one who led the charge in spreading the word about the revolution.  But because you take sides in the debate and effectively influence discussion on it, you’ll get a less than excellent grade right now. Chin-up though, a word or two about the petition, which is a viable and reportable story, will go a long way towards taking you to the top of the class… where you really belong.

Rich Johnston: (B-) – You’re also one of the more promising students. And though you haven’t led a charge for the revolution, you did help out with a runaround in the beginning. But it’ll be imperative for you also to fulfill your destiny as a reporter and tell your readers about the petition. There will be no way around that… unless you come up with a better incentive for public pressure on DC and Marvel.  Which I don’t put past you at all.  Either way the grade will improve in accordance with next semester efforts.

Daniel Best: (A+) – You, my friend, are a front line power in the war against publishers who’ve driven the comics into the mud. There isn’t a better researcher who’s mindful of the injustices of the industry to its creators.

Jon B. Cooke: (A+) – Though your contribution will only be known in the upcoming issue of The Jack Kirby Collector, your signing the petition openly is a brave statement by one of the more revered comics historians in the industry.

Comicon Pulse: (A) – Just for being a good fighter and helping pass the word around. You built a great vehicle and community and are destined to do very big things things with them.

J. Caleb Mozzocco: (B+)Your nice words on the open letter are only rivaled by the awesome comment on the beard.  You deserve a better grade but your blog has no contact info in order to send you updates.  What kind of an outfit are you people running at Blog@Newsarama anyway? Shouldn’t you have an accessible link for sending in stories? Let’s get it together guys and plug the petition already.

Fandom: (AAA+) – A special grade for all the special things that you, the fans, do to help spread the word on the petition and campaign…and who are the lion’s share of signatories.  You are the grassroots voice of the people that will guide the comics into victory.  It’s only a matter of time that more creators begin to discover the faith and trust you place in them…and begin to reach for the role of leadership that you know to be their destiny.

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SIGN THE PETITION!

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Dredd & Phantom Commission

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New Judge Dredd and Phantom commission from a layout done about 6 months ago for comics historian and good friend Daniel Best.

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Gentleman Jim Mooney | Print Edition

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Gentleman Jim MooneyDaniel Best‘s latest foray into biographical books on comics creators, Gentleman Jim Mooney, is now available in print at Lulu.com.

Gentleman Jim Mooney was written with the direct involvement of Jim Mooney. It features rare and unpublished art, direct from Mooney’s files, plus previously unseen personal photos. The book features contributions from Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Joe Sinnott and others, plus all-new art as Sinnott, Norm Breyfogle, Bob Almond, Mark McKenna, Jim Tournas and Bob McLeod exclusively ink previously unpublished Mooney pencils. Also features is Mooney’s niece Libby Titus, wife of Steely Dan Founder Donald Fagen plus an introduction by Stan “The Man” Lee.

Published in conjunction with Blaq Books, it promises to be 111 masterful pages on one of the more memorable icons of comic art in the Silver Age.

Order your copies at Lulu.com and help support the chronicling of comics creator giants by Daniel Best.

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Unemployed Man Getting a Little PR

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I’ve sent out press releases for the upcoming Adventures of Unemployed Man to a handful of comics news sites, but doing these one by one is a bit of a chore. Which brings me to wonder if we don’t have a comics industry news wire agency, where a press release can be sent out to all the comics news sites at once, like in the real world. There are so many good news sites out there that it’s perhaps about time someone also establishes such a service. If it does exist and I’m not aware of it, then please do let me know.

In the meantime here are a few places that picked up the release:

  • 20th Century Danny Boy: Daniel Best, one of our site complex’s oldest and most dedicated friends, and exemplary activist on behalf of the comics creator community, offers an enthusiastic response to news of the project.
  • Bleeding Cool: Rich Johnston’s cool comics news site, a subsidiary of Avatar Press, carries the press release and gives it a creator oriented title. On the forum thread for that item, Josh Adams, son of Neal Adams, makes an appearance to voice his enthusiasm for the creators working on the project, surreptitiously leaving out Joe Rubinstein and myself. Josh seems to have an ax to grind since leaving his less than flattering comments on the Supergod item Rich Johnston ran some time ago. I tried then to explain to him that there’s more to his frustration than he even understands himself right now, but it apparently didn’t sink it well enough to help him overcome the urge to continue poking. So, maybe Josh just needs a little hug or something, He is just a growing boy, after all.
  • First Comics News: Rik Offenberger and company’s excellent new site, setting up to also conduct an interview on the project, perhaps coming soon.
  • Comics Bulletin: Jason Brice and Jason Sacks leading comics news, reviews and commentary site, formerly Silver Bullet.
  • Comics Should be Good: The Comic Book Resources blog runs a nice profile of the project by Brian Cronin.
  • Millarworld Forums: Posted the press release there and received a couple of nice comments.

That about covers it for now. The press release needs to make the rounds but I’m presently too busy doing the actual artwork for the project. That’s one good reason for needing a comics community news wire agency.

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Around the Neighborhood

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Dick Giordano has been hospitalized with acute chronic Lukemia. Daniel Best reposted a compilation of colleagues’ thoughts from Dick’s Hall of fame page at the Inkwell Awards. Cards and letters can be sent to:

Dick Giordano
c/o  Florida Hospital Oceanside,
264 S. Atlantic Ave.
Ormond Beach,
FL 32176


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Gracious Gail Simone makes me blush on Twitter: “Mike Netzer still draws like a bandit. Love that guy’s art. What a fun LSH shot!” [Link to Legion of Super-Heroes commission]


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Tom Hartley’s nice introduction to the mock-up 2010 Martian Manhunter DC Archives at Idol-Head of Diabolu includes an excerpt telling why I revived J’onn J’onzz big brow after it disappeared for several decades. Frank Lee Delano relates the entire story in a follow-up post.


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Some rough layouts for commissions in the works:

Batman Arkham

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Batman

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Tarzan

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Gentleman Jim Mooney

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Daniel Best, who just gave an enthusiastic review of our new commissioned art, is soliciting his new artist history project, in collaboration with the subject, Gentleman Jim Mooney, in CD format.

In their first publishing venture, BLAQ BOOKS proudly presents the long awaited official biography of one of the finest, and most prolific American comic book artists of the 20th century, GENTLEMAN JIM MOONEY!

Gentleman Jim Mooney was written with the direct involvement of Jim Mooney. It features rare and unpublished art, direct from Mooney’s files, plus previously unseen personal photos. The book also features commentary and contributions from Steve Gerber, Mark Evanier, Richard Howell, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella, Joe Sinnott and others, plus all-new art created especially for this book, as Joe Sinnott, Norm Breyfogle, Bob Almond, Mark McKenna, Jim Tournas and Bob McLeod exclusively ink previously unpublished Mooney pencils. Capping it off is an interview with Mooney’s niece Libby Titus, wife of Steely Dan Founder Donald Fagen and an introduction by Stan “The Man” Lee.

The CD is available for download at BLAQ BOOKS.  Have a look and buy the product to contribute to Daniel’s marvelous work in chronicling the life and times of landmark comics creators.

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Vince Colletta Remembered

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Had Vince Colletta been the type of comics artist whose self esteem was dependent on his peers’ opinion of his work, it’s very likely that he would not have lasted out his career as a comics inker during the 60’s decade at Marvel.

Those familiar with the controversy over Coletta’s craftsmanship, know that perhaps no other comics creator has been the subject of personal and professional criticism of the type leveled at him. While he also elicits notable praise from the comics readership, many of the great artists whose work he embellished have been noted to say that he was the last choice they would make for an inker of their pencils, and such are not of the least flattering comments. Writer/historian Mark Evanier, of Colletta’s more vociferous critics, who led a charge to remove the inker from Jack Kirby assignments at DC in the early 70’s, explains his position here and here, in response to favorable commentaries on Colletta’s art by Eddie Campbell and Stuart Immonen.

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Artist Eric Larsen also posted an opinion on the debate, opening his short essay with the statement: “Vince Colletta was one of the most prolific inkers in the history of comics.” Considering the duality inherent in any controversey, the following quotation currently adorning Vinnie’s Wikipedia biography, stands out in its praise of his inking over Jack Kirby pencils in their critically acclaimed run on Thor during the 1960’s.  From Marvel Comics in the Silver Age, by writer and comics historian Pierre Comtoise:

. . . Colletta’s hair-thin, detailed inking style . . . seemed devoid of large areas of black, [which are] used to give figures weight and heft but an artistic concept yet to be fully explored by the time of the Middle Ages, an era whose crude woodcuts most reflected the art style needed by the Thor strip[. It] captured the elusive quality of otherworldly drama that the strip would increasingly demand as [Stan] Lee and [Jack] Kirby took it away from the everyday world of supervillains to a mythic plane where the forces of evil were on a far more gargantuan scale. Despite the serendipity of the two men’s styles, Colletta would later be criticized, with good reason, for compromising Kirby’s artistic vision by eliminating much of the detail that the artist put into his work. Be that as it may, what Colletta chose to keep, he rendered in such a way that showed off aspects of Kirby’s art that no inker before or since has ever been able to reproduce.

Our good friend Daniel Best has also posted extensively, and quite forthrightly, about the Colletta controversy over the years. Childhood comics reader “Dan McFan” dedicated an entire blog in praise of Colletta, named after his contentious view of Evanier and other detractors, where he cites a remark I once made at Imwan Forums about the personal nature of Vinnie’s reputation amongst his colleagues. Forum discussions such as this 98 page thread at Comicon.com, or these here, here, and here at The Comics Journal Message Boards, paint a largely accurate picture of the love/hate sentiment in comics fandom for the legacy and art of Vince Colletta.

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Immersed into the world of comic books at youth, I remember having a reverence for the Thor comics, much for the same reason cited by Pierre Comtoise. All that changed, however, as I edged closer towards fandom and came into contact with other aspiring artists. The mere mention of Vince Colletta was often synonymous with “the worst inker ever in comics”. The phenomenon only intensified when I became a professional artist working at Continuity. Still, Vinnie was art director at DC where I’d pretty much settled in as a penciler – and he was inking a great deal of books at the time. One can thus imagine my apprehension upon learning that he’d ink the fill-in issue of Wonder Woman, #232, that I penciled in 1976.
It wasn’t the type of apprehension based on an independent artistic assessment of the pros and cons of such a collaboration – rather on how that work would be viewed by the professional and fan community which largely saw Vinnie’s work in a negative light. In retrospect, I have nothing but good sentiment towards that project today as it’s clear to me that Vinnie’s sensitive line and professional experience contributed towards making that early work look a little better.  The same is true for a Flash story I penciled in World’s Finest Comics that Vinnie inked several years later.  There was a similar tension in the air then about Jack Abel inking my Legion of Super-Heroes stories, but it never reached the intensity that it did with Vinnie – perhaps because Jack was working from Continuity and was considered one of the good guys, while Vinnie was mostly villified as a distant “hack”,  worthy of the most dire slander as a destroyer of comics art, by the sometimes overly proud community of artists that we are.

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As a pertinent digression into the expectations that a comics penciler has regarding their work, it seems that submitting pencil art to be inked and colored by others is by itself a relinquishing of any rights the artist holds over the finished work. Though we should hope for the best effort possible by everyone contributing to the final product, the nature of the beast necessitates that we understand how unenforceable such expectations truly are. In that some artists are able to command a better personal result for their work, it cannot be said that any such collaboration is able to entirely satisfy a penciler’s expectations. This is inherent in the nature of a collaboration and has little to do with the degree of proficiency or artistic merit of an embellisher.

More so, there exists a quality to pencil art which an ink line can never capture for print, and which further stretches the divide between the potential inherent in the pencils and the finished product in a printed book. Thus, every inker must take a certain measure of liberty in order to interpret pencil art. And regardless of the degree of liberty taken, the finished product will never live up to any penciler’s vision for the potential their art holds for them. When compounding an independent artistic vision of an inker, such as Vinnie had, and considering his propensity for keeping the trains running on time, it’s more understandable how he’s come to evoke such a polarized range of sentiment regarding his work.

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This is not, however, about the artistic merit of Vince Colletta. Not about his 1950’s, mostly romance, comics which he penciled and inked exquisitely. Not about his subsequent inking for Marvel and DC beginning in the 1960’s, for which he gained the unflattering reputation. It is not even about whether it’s fair for a community of comics creators and fans to so injuriously malign one of our very own, whose contribution to the medium is indisputable.  No, good readers, this is not about any of these. It is only about the unfathomably resilient spirit of Vince Colletta. An artist who was more than confident about his approach to inking some of the best pencil art of his time. Certain of his own self esteem and unique uncompromising artistic vision, balanced by the time commitments he made. Resilient in that he never allowed his colleagues’ resentment of him to sway from the path he charted.  Good natured in that he never answered any of his detractors in kind, and maintained a warm and personable friendship with everyone whom he knew was maligning him behind his back.

It was a privilege and honor to have known and collaborated with you, Vinnie.  Time to join Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook and perhaps finally offer a copyright free image for your Wikipedia biography. If this portrait doesn’t quite live up to the standard of others I’ve drawn, the only explanation I have is that it’s the best I could do in the short time I could allow myself to do it.

I simply had to hack it out.

Vince CollettaPortraits of the Creators Sketchbook.

* Most images of Vinnie’s art borrowed with gratitude from “Dan McFan”

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20th Century Danny Boy

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Thank you, Daniel, for the gracious words.

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Michael Netzer Returns!

But then he never really went away. Michael Netzer, the genius behind the Facebook Virtual Comic Con, has proved once more why he’s one of the more interesting people on the planet, has re-invented his web-site again. I think I’ve lost track of how many times, but damn, as always it’s well worth looking at and exploring.

I don’t believe I live up to it, nor do I know how much time I have to sustain it.  Sufficient for now, is that we have a little window to try.

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