Tagged in: comics

Something Lawful: Geeky Legal News 04-15-13

Not all legal news is geeky and not all geeky news has to do with the law, but some things fall in the sweet, sweet center of that Venn diagram. If it has to do with the intersection of copyrights, trademarks, privacy, licensing, internet regulation and games, movies, tech, comics, books or the world of entertainment, I am on it. Here is the rundown of news from the past week:

  1. Night Shade Books  Plans to Sell Their Authors’ Contracts; Uproar Ensues Night Shade, a publisher of science fiction, fantasy and horror novels from authors like Jeff VanderMeere, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Kameron Hurley is not doing so hot. The publisher is in dire financial straits, and the company looking to buy out their back catalogue raised some hackles by lowballing their initial offer. After many of the authors spoke out in places like Facebook and io9 spoke about being offered a raw deal, the buying publisher increased their proposed royalty rate. (via Twenty Palaces)
  2. Scott Turow Laments the Decline of the American AuthorAccording to the author of One L, fair use, libraries, and E-books have created a toxic cocktail of copyright poison that is slowly killing off the class of successful American writers and he has taken to the New York Times to complain about it.
  3. I Ain’t Sayin’ He’s a Copyright Infringer. Producer. Rapper. Designer. Lover of Fish Sticks. Kanye West can  now add “Defendant” to his long list of titles, as he now gets to defend his song “Gold Digger” against allegations of copyright infringement in federal court. The issue is West’s use of  “Get down girl, go ‘head, get down” which the plaintiffs claim infringes their copyright in a 1974 song “Bumpin’ Bus Stop” by a group called Thunder & Lightning. the complaint also includes a racketeering claim under RICO that West and Roc-a-Fella Records, Bad Boy Records, Stones Throw Records, Bomb Hip-Hop Records, Autumn Games, Activision, Caroline Distribution and The Island Def Jam Music Group have conspired in an “illegal copyright infringement scheme and criminal enterprise involving the unauthorized, willful sampling of plaintiffs original copyrighted music on a massive scale.”
  4. The Mystery of the Disappearing Rights.  The game No One Lives Forever felt like Austin Powers, James Bond, Metal Gear:Solid, and the original Half-life were shaken together in a sterling steel martini mixer. It was a great game, but it looks like any reboot or long-lost sequel is hamstrung by the fact that no one quite seems to know who owns the rights to the franchise after 13 years of mergers and acquisitions according to Activision’s Dan Amrich. Looks like some legal intern will be digging through the basement archives this summer to run down the paper trail.(via Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
  5. The Saga Apple Doesn’t Want you to See. Last week readers of brian K. Vaughan’s kick-ass space opera Saga  were unable to buy the digital version of Wednesday after it was pulled from Apple’s main comic store app Comixology. Cries of censorship and corporate squeamishness accompanied what at first appeared as Apple refusing to allow a comic with semi-explicit depictions of gay sex. It turns out that Comixology proactively pulled the title from its submissions because they decided to save Apple the trouble. In the end, the comic went out to Ipad users, but the fracas highlights one of the dangers in the move to digital media for comics: no one can fully depend on their preferred format and provider to keep the comics coming.

Ebay, Get Off My Back

ebay

I’ve gone a little nuts with the Ebay thing.

My auction insanity has deepened along two separate vectors: the madness of buying and a deep addiction to selling. Both activities keep me consistently logged in to the service, checking and rechecking MyEbay for any action, any infinitesimal shift in the bidding price of items.

The buying is easy to explain. There are any number of great deals you can finagle if you sweep in to the right auction at the right time, but there is more at work than mere frugality. The strength of Ebay lies in man’s greed and avarice. There is something tremendously satisfying of feeling like you are taking advantage of some poor sap who put his treasure out into the stream of commerce without a reserve and with free shipping. I enjoy the notion that I am swindling some sucker from Palookaville out of his hard-earned trade paperbacks. At the same time, the nature of the auction format ensures that I nearly always end up paying just slightly more than I wanted to but still less than the items would retail for. I work hard to restrain my competitive impulses and for the most part I am successful. But not always.

And the selling aspect of my addiction funnels into the buying. The items that I sell (primarily my comic books) go for less than I paid for them, but the income feels like found money. When a buyer pays me, the money sits in my paypal account. The convenience of using those funds to  pay for my next purchase is too tempting to ignore. The proceeds of my sales rarely make the transfer to my bank account.

Selling my possessions feels good. There is something liberating about shedding the barnacles that attach as I age and getting rid of my worldly goods. The feeling is addictive. The more I think about the unlikelihood of rereading my Eternal Champion novels, replaying Doom 3, or rewatching my Sopranos dvds the greater the pointlessness in leaving them sitting on my shelf. I have been a student for far too long to amass any serious material wealth but my geekier tendencies has filled my bookshelves with all manner of books, comics, games, and knickknacks. All of which I have enjoyed, none of which will ever serve me again in the future. So I commit them to the internet, letting Ebay find them an appropriate home. It feels better than simply dropping them off in a box at Goodwill, and offers some monetary compensation for my years of rampant consumerism.

I wouldn’t say this urge to purge has reached the level of compulsion, but it could progress that far. As it is, I now frequently buy book lots, read them, and then almost immediately post them for resale. Generally, I break even or lose money on the deal. I just chalk it up to the pleasure of reading the books and consider it a rental fee, which is a bargain for the hours of entertainment I get. Occasionally I  make a profit.

But I’m not accruing anything, no tangible objects of my culture. In my younger days I would look at my sprawling stacks of comics and books with a sense of pride. I would even sort of show them off when people came in my room. Although, I did make an effort to hide my comics when I thought I might be bringing a ladyfriend back to the boudoir. Ah, the insecurity of youth. At any rate, even as I enjoy clearing space and ensuring that my next move will involve carrying fewer boxes I feel a tinge of regret, an inescable shudder of loss. It makes me think about the nature of media, and how it is changing. It also makes me want a Kindle, under the theory that if I am not keeping the physical objects I might as well not even bother buying them and make the shift to digital media. But that feels like something that smarter men than I are already thinking about. But that is a post for another day. For now, I need to check on my auctions to see if there’s been any action since I last refreshed ten minutes ago.

Internet Goodies for Sunday, January 11th 2009

Back in San Francisco and positively tingling with anticipation for classes to start, I still have a few links for my adoring public.

  • 9 Reasons Not to Attend Law School
    All true, and yet I remain undeterred.Filed Under [lawschool ]
  • People Who Deserve It
    Deserve what? A punch in the face, of course.”This blog is not written with malice or scorn, but with a sincere desire to witness the upward progression of the human race. And some people are ruining it for everybody.
    People who wear sunglasses inside.
    Savages who pee on the seat.
    This kind of conduct only perpetuates the acceptance of degenerate behavior.
    On this space log, you will find examples of socially responsible reasons to punch someone in the face. And remember, we do it for the kids.”

    Filed Under [humor blogs ]

  • Borges: Pathways of the (Postmodern) Mind
    Jorge Luis Borges and some problems of taxonomy.”At first glance, I was fascinated by the idea of so many academics being fooled by a supposed misquote. But then I saw: in these three paragraphs there are multiple levels of story going on. First of all, academic infighting: “they hoped to tear me apart.” Then the philosophical differences between Modernists and Postmodernists, which is interesting in itself, because really, their conflict is all about ways of thinking about reality. Which is, of course what Borges’ works all played with.”

    Filed Under [literature philosophy postmodernism ]

  • Zoom Baby, Zoom
    A panoramic photo with awesome details.Filed Under [photography ]
  • Is it Art?
    Re: the cultural significance of video games.”There is no other medium that produces so pure a cultural segregation as video games, so clean-cut a division between the audience and the non-audience. Books, films, TV, dance, theatre, music, painting, photography, sculpture, all have publics which either are or aren’t interested in them, but at least know that these forms exist, that things happen in them in which people who are interested in them are interested. They are all part of our current cultural discourse. Video games aren’t. Video games have people who play them, and a wider public for whom they simply don’t exist.”

    Filed Under [media videogames ]

  • NIN best selling cc-licensed music
    Lawrence Lessig considers the implications of Nine Inch Nail’s CC licensed album’s success.”Even more exciting, however, is that Ghosts I-IV is ranked the best selling MP3 album of 2008 on Amazon’s MP3 store.”

    Filed Under [music copyright creativecommons ]

  • What WWE champion Mick Foley thought of The Wrestler Mankind talks about a movie I am dying to see, but haven’t yet:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “I even heard that I was one of his influences in preparing for the role. But what did Hollywood know about my business, anyway? Who had they ever beaten? (As we say in the biz.)”Filed Under [criticism film sports wrestling ]
  • On Language – Bleeping Expletives
    William Safire examines the media’s censorship techniques:
    “The need for today’s review is the coverage given to the participial modifier employed with great frequency and immortalized on recordings of telephone conversations made by the F.B.I. as its shocked — shocked! — agents eavesdropped on Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor. His favorite intensifier was reproduced in many newspapers and Internet sites with dashes as “—-ing” or with asterisks as “****ing” and was substituted in broadcasts, telecasts and Netcasts as a word descriptive of the sound called bleep.”

    Filed Under [media language profanity nytimes ]

  • Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: writing The Other
    “I think he does an overall good job with female characters. But the imperfections of a writer like Gaiman, however small, are infinitely more revealing to discuss than are the the glaring mistakes of writers who don’t even seem to like women.”Filed Under [criticism Comics feminist ]
  • Some Modest Advice for Young Law Scholars
    “If you want to have an easy tenure case, here are some modest suggestions”Filed Under [law lawschool academia ]
  • Net Scavenging for the New Year, January 4th 2009

    How did I spend New Year’s Eve? I drank beer.  I watched Justice League cartoons. I read Vonnegut. I fired a shotgun into the air. Not a bad way to send out 2008, symbolically speaking. Here’s some digital detritus:

  • Town Asks Kung Fu Monks for Tourism Blessings”
    “Mr. Dou found a savior 1,200 miles away, in the Song Mountains of central China, where the warrior monks of Shaolin have mastered the art of monastery marketing.” Can you get a black belt in that?
    Filed Under [religion nytimes china tourism ]
  • William Burroughs: Do Easy
    “DE is a way of doing. It is a way of doing everything you do. DE simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance in DE.” A sort of everyday zen.
    Filed Under [psychology ]
  • Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
    A resource for my favorite superhero.
    Filed Under [Comics superheroes ]
  • Abandoned London
    A Flickr set.
    Filed Under [photography flickr ]
  • A New Taxonomy of Gamers
    A thoughtful look at what we talk about when we talk about video games and the geeks (and others) who play them.
    Filed Under [Culture criticism videogames ]
  • Long Now: Projects: Clock
    “The idea to build a monument scale, multi-millennial, all mechanical clock as an icon to long term thinking.” Just having read Anathem, this sort of thing is on my mind.
    Filed Under [science technology philosophy ]
  • Choose Your Own Adventure Short Films
    Cinematical offers some short films that require a little audience participation, just like those books you remember.
    Filed Under [movies postmodernism ]
  • It Didn’t Quite Move Me: The Spirit Reviewed

    The Spirt Movie PosterIf I don’t see a certain number of comic book movies every year, they threaten to revoke my geek credentials. But I was excited to see The Spirit, the first solo directorial effort of esteemed comic mainstay and Sin City creator Frank Miller.

    The story of murdered rookie beat cop Denny Colt’s posthumous war on crime was never really all that compelling. Killed in the line of duty, Colt (played by perfectly servicable if slightly bland Gabriel Macht) mysteriously returns to life and decides to use his status as a postmortem P.I. to go places the police can’t and wear the ties they won’t.

    Gabriel Macht as The Spirit

    He conspires to work with police commissioner Dolan ( an awesomely grouchy Dan Lauria (a.k.a Kevin’s Dad from The Wonder Years (side note: I really want to see a remake of Grumpy Old Men starring J.K. Simmons and Dan Lauria))  to rid central city of its criminal element. This mostly means battling the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson at his hammiest and least restrained) and dealing with an old flame turned art thief Sand Saref (Eva Mendes).

    As an origin story, it works to set up the world that The Spirit operates in, but it lacks the pathos and iconic identification of a rocket hurtling to earth carrying the last survivor from a doomed planet or an irradiated spider granting amazing powers to a teenager who quickly learns the relationship between power and responsibility. (Hint: they correlate). The Spirit in the comics served as more a storytelling vehicle for Will Eisner to explore the bleeding edge of what was possible to convey with words and pictures. Will Eisner literally wrote the book on how to tell stories in comic books, and The Spirit offered  fine experiments in composition and motion but the source material doesn’t scream out for adaptation to the movie screen.

    Frank Miller is an odd choice to make a Spirit movie. Will Eisner created the character in 1939 and despite numerous revisions and reinterpretations over the years, The Spirit seems to work best with a kind of “Gee Whiz” optimism that pulls away from the babes and bullets of Frank Miller’s noir-tinted wheelhouse. I know, I know. The man sat at the feet of the Master and his close personal relationship with Eisner does give him a plausible reason to want to spearhead The Spirit’s transition from comics to film. But Miller’s overly muscular approach to visual storytelling doesn’t mesh well with the character. The result is a kind of Sin City-lite. The Spirit spends a good portion of the film offering tough-guy first person narration about how much he loves his city and his plan to kill his opponent The Octopus “all kinds of dead.”

    This tone clashes horribly with the bits and pieces of screwball comedy and excruciatingly unfunny attempts to incorporate visual humor into the story. One scene where the Spirit finds himself suspended from a gargoyle and has to save himself by removing his belt and swinging to safety as his pants drop falls particularly flat. But there are a few genuinely funny moments. Jackson’s performance is way over the top, but sometimes his bizarre portrayal of the mad crime lord approaches camp brilliance. The scene where he lectures the Spirit while wearing a Nazi uniform for no discernible reason while his assistant Scarlet Johanssen  poses under a picture of Hitler is delightfully surreal.

    The recurring gag of the effect the Spirit has on the ladies is also pretty funny. It seems like the eponymous hero can’t walk more than a few steps in his city without some woman trying to jump his bones.

    the_spirit_poster7

    All the dames, broads, and skirts that throw themselves at him seem powerless to resist his charisma. Even the anthropomorphic personification of death is putty in his gloved hands.

    Those of you of a more feminist or Freudian bent will likely have some serious issues with the way Miller depicts women. For all his obsessions with showing the female form in fetishistic display of all sorts of cleavage and the frequent reminders of The Spirit’s desirability, the narration constantly reminds us that he loves his city (who he personifies as feminine: ” My city screams. She needs me. I am her Spirit.”) more than any actual woman of flesh and blood.

    But for all its flaws (though they are many) I left the theater feeling satisfied. In fact the film was almost exactly what I expected. The Spirit was an enjoyable movie that was kind of ridiculous. And kind of awesome. The awesome outweighs the ridiculous and that’s more than I get from most comic book adaptations.  It looked incredible. Miller used a whole color pallet and he is obviously still in the process of honing his skill with creating moving images. The film could have been more dynamic, but it was Oh-So-Pretty.  I imagine that those seeing Miller’s name attached and expecting a Sin City quasi-sequel will leave the multiplex disappointed, because the formal style of that movie informs this one, but the end result is totally different.

    It is also kind of goofy. But if you are willing to go along for the ride, there are pleasures mixed in with the detritus. It gets:

    Two and a Half Red Ties (Out of Five)

    spirit1

    Internet Goodies for Wednesday, October 29th 2008

    Linking and driving, only without the driving.

  • 20 Civil Liberties Laws Every American Should Know – Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

    Filed Under [none]

  • Intellectual Property Colloquium
    "The project is called the Intellectual Property Colloquium, and it is essentially an online audio program devoted to intellectual property topics. It aspires to be something like an NPR talk show, but it will focuse on copyrights and patents, and is aimed primarily at a legal audience. The programs are neither lectures nor debates. They are conversations, ideally thoughtful ones, with guests drawn from academia, the entertainment community, and the various technology industries."
    Filed Under [none]
  • Authors, Publishers, and Google Reach Landmark Settlement – MarketWatch

    Filed Under [none]

  • Mexico acknowledges drug gang infiltration of police – Los Angeles Times
    Los Departedo
    Filed Under [none]
  • We Don’t Need Another War on Poverty : City Journal Autumn 2008

    Filed Under [none]

  • Moving Toward Web 2.0 in K-12 Education | Britannica Blog

    Filed Under [none]

  • Joe Simon, a Creator of Captain America, Still Fighting for Comic Book Artists at 94 – New York Times

    Filed Under [superheroes marvel comics law ]

  • EFF:Legal Guide for Bloggers
    "The goal here is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected."
    Filed Under [technology law journalism media blogging ]
  • Zowie!!! March Madness, with Madman

    Recently I finished reading the Madman Gargantua, a pleasantly hefty volume collecting the adventures of Mike Allred’s ginchiest creation. There will be a full review later,  but suffice it to say it’s about a re-animated hitman named Frank Einstein and his mad scientist pals and it’s overflowing with aliens, robots, time travel, and other awesome wackiness. In honor of this volume, I’ve decided to dedicate the month of March to celebrating it with a little something I’m calling March Mad(man)ness. To kick things off, our hero meets a fan:

    Madman on the Bus, with a Fan

    The Poor Guy

    Answer The Question

    I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. I love The Question, and I have ever since I learned that he was the basis for the character of Rorschach in Watchmen. I always thought it was kind of weird that DC had never collected any of their Question comics from the mid to late 80s. Granted, the series finished well short of the graphic novel boom that we enjoy today, but I thought for sure that the character’s position at center stage in 52 would start the ball rolling and it finally did.

    The character has kind of an odd history. He started out as a vigilante embodiment of Steve Ditko’s objectivist philosophy. Vic Sage, like many objectivist followers of Ayn Rand was something of an asshole. After the Charleton characters were purchased by DC, he got a metaphysical face lift (as it were). Zen and Violence collects the first six issues of his relaunch.

    the question zen and violence

     

    Vic Sage is an investigative reporter in the ridiculously corrupt Hub City. He’s trying to expose the wrongs of the political elite, but he has trouble making people care. He also carries on the fight as his faceless alter ego, The Question. Wearing a mask that makes his face look blank and a stylish fedora he kicks down doors and does the things vigilantes usually do.

    But he is unfulfilled. After he meets (and receives an ass-kicking from) Lady Shiva and almost dies, he undergoes a spiritual metamorphosis. In the comic book equivalent of a training montage, he spends a one-page year recovering, training, and learning meditation/melee skills from the enigmatic and awesomely-bearded Richard Dragon.

    question zen and violence richard dragon training montage

    Then he’s ready to hit the streets with a Zen outlook and a whole new kind of cool.

    The storytelling is solid, even if the art is a little 80s-tastic. The plot is straightforward enough for the reboot of the character and gives him the opportunity to kick some low level ass while adjusting to the new status quo. The villain of the first story arc, an insane preacher manipulating the drunken mayor in a half-assed scheme to create a world so corrupt that the rapture is bound to occur is slightly less than epic. But The Question is a street level hero and he works well with the smaller stakes. I hate it when vigilante characters end up saving the world. For The Question, trying to save the city is enough.

    My biggest complaint with this trade is that only collects the first six issues and comes with $19.99 price tag attached. It’s worth it, but I would have been much happier if this series had gotten the Showcase treatment. The art does not need the glossy treatment it gets here and I think it would look awesome in black and white. As my local comic purveyor pointed out, Zen and Violence clearly has the numeral 1 on the spine, so I’m sure there will be more forthcoming if it sells. But I, for one, would love to have a bigger chunk of The Question in a much thicker collection.

    Dork Dispatch: Ghost Rider

    Somewhere deep inside me lurks the soul of a full on Comic Book Guy. I like comic books, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been reading them for most of my life, and I’ve accumulated a fair amount of comics knowledge, though I try to keep from foisting it upon the uninterested. I have varying degrees of success with this, but I’m generally pretty good about reserving my in-depth explanations of comic book lore for situations that call for it. Because of this, I am the Go-To Geek whenever one of my friends or family members has questions about the four-color world and once in a great while they will solicit me for thoughts and opinions on Comic Movies, because it is where several of my interests intersect.

    ghost rider, motorcycle hero

    So it’s no wonder people keep coming up to on the street and asking me about Ghost Rider, which stars Nicholas “Almost Superman” Cage and opens this week. To say I’m less than excited about this movie would be like saying that Yogi Bear kind of likes Picnic Baskets. I will go see it, because I am philosophically obligated to see every comic book movie that comes, thus voting with my dollar to keep them coming. But I don’t think I’ll like it. I’m praying for mediocrity on this one, as I feel that is the most anyone can hope for. This fills me with rage, hot fiery rage.

    I think the recent emergence of mainstream comic book movies has been a good thing, by and large. It brings well-loved characters into new media and introduces them to a whole new public. Comics are visual narratives and lend themselves well to the cinema (when done right). But for every Batman Begins, we get a Daredevil. For every Spider-Man we get a Catwoman. And for every X-Men, we get a Ghost Rider. In the rush to cash in on the comic movie trend, studios are mining deep, and what they shake out isn’t always cinematic gold. This is a shame because all they can do is tarnish the good name of some cool characters.

    A crash course (Get it?) on the Ghost Rider: Originally published in the early 70s, the series told the story of Johnny Blaze, stunt motorcyclist who had sold his soul to the devil in order to cure his step-father’s cancer. The devil was true to his word and he cured the cancer, but Johnny’s dad soon died in a motorcycle accident. When the devil showed up to collect poor Johnny’s soul, he was devil cock-blocked by Johnny’s sweetheart. The pure love of his girlfriend kept the devil at bay, but in revenge he cursed Johnny to become the flaming-skulled demon at night. In effect, Johnny was possessed by a demon who began as an unspeaking cipher but showed more and more personality as the series progressed. The Ghost Rider did not have Johnny’s consciousness, but his thoughts and feelings influenced the otherworldly biker into doing (mostly) good although his unpredictable nature could cause serious harm to Johnny’s friends. He could somehow “burn people’s souls” with his hellfire, and was mean with a chain. There was also a 1990s reboot of the character, with a different young man becoming the Ghost Rider. It was pretty cool, and Dan Ketch served as my introduction to the character, but it is Johnny Blaze who will be the subject of the movie. He’s a stunt rider, an impulsive hothead who also has a heart of gold and must literally and figuratively overcome his demons to save the people he loves.

    I think that’s a complex character, and a cool story. So why will the movie suck? It is doomed to fail. I don’t believe there was any possible way to translate Ghost Rider to the big screen. A giant skeleton with a flaming skull riding around on a demonic chopper looks mighty cool on the comics page, but no amount of CGI will save it on the movie screen. Had this been a cartoon maybe it might have stood a chance at coolness, but as it is Ghost Rider looks ridiculous. It is simply too much to ask people to suspend their disbelief that this guy’s head is constantly flickering with infernal fire. It just looks kind of dumb, and if there is one thing the Ghost Rider should never be it is goofy looking. He should be scary. Is this scary?

    ghost rider movie

    I’ve never gone on record with who my favorite heroes are, but the top three are probably Daredevil, Moon Knight and Ghost Rider. Now two out of three have been brought to the big screen in an aggressively mediocre way. Hopefully Moon Knight is safe. I’m willing to be surprised, but as I enter the theatre on Friday it will be with a sense of dread in my heart as I prepare to let the studio “Daredevil” me into submission.