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Greg Land: Legal Trouble?

Toasty Blaire, Chicago

Ultimate Power Pack, the latest miniseries on Marvel's Ultimate line, stars four youngsters who have superpowers and fight crime like their adult counterparts. The mini debuted on the Marvel rack two months ago as a four-parter (with possible miniseries to follow if the book was successful). A four-part mini-series, longtime fans of the comic were excited to see the Ultimate versions of the youngsters. There was some discourse, however, when Greg Land was picked to draw the book.

Controversy is not foreign to Greg Land's work ethic--being mainly the accusation that he uses lightboxes to trace his subject matter (particularly rumored to be that of porn stills, movie stills, and other artists' work). Not only is this considered unethical by many artistic standards, it is also "prohibited" (tracing Marvel drawings is technically not illegal, however, as Marvel retains all rights to the artwork their employees produce for company profit). Morever, all the same Marvel curiously instituted a no-tracing policy for copyrighted material (but not a no-tracing policy) to stop the rumors about Land, and it wasn't until the infamous "Mother Teresa" incident that he was pulled back into the comic book controversy scene as millions of Catholics and a fair number of comic fans were outraged by a Fantastic Four issue. Marvel defended him, however, stating that the woman in a thong costume getting savaged by Dr. Doom's long-lost twin brother was not, as it was claimed, Mother Teresa, and the matter was eventually put to rest.

The Ultimate Power Pack gig was unexpected, especially because of its young subjects. But Greg Land assured fans that he was excited for the project and "jazzed up" to do something different.
 Yes, ANOTHER book that Bendis is writing
Something different, or more than the same? The first issue's artwork was as picture-perfect as always, but many fans and half as many blogs were quick to point out the amount of "kiddie-cake" as it soon came to be known--specifically, they felt that the pre-teens in the book were too "sexualized" (a usual observance and complaint of Greg Land's comic art) and seemed to be taken out of porn stills like his other work. Marvel received a backlash, and, to the surprise of many, the FBI actually became involved with the case, taking Land's photograph collection and laptop from his studio to study the contents.

Greg Land insists that he did not trace from child porn for the book, but the FBI still hasn't released its findings.

Joe Quesada addressed the issue briefly at a small convention last Thursday. "We're totally behind Greg on this," he stated. "Greg is one of Marvel's best artists and a great guy."

However, rumors have circulated that Greg Land is in danger of losing his job. This, combined with the sudden onslaught of porn-stars and models who are claiming that Greg Land stole their likenesses, has kept Land tied up in legal troubles. With the last two issues of Ultimate Power Pack unfinished, it is uncertain whether or not they will come out on time, or at all.

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Iron Man and Ronin: Unmasked!

by Dr. Wolf S. Vegas, Candidate for Internet Sheriff. New York

As this article might spoil readers of the Avengers books, this article is being hidden behind a cut.

Spoilers for Mighty Avengers #7 and New Avengers #34Collapse )

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DC vs. Marvel - The Online War Game

by Dr. Wolf S. Vegas, Candidate for Internet Sheriff. New York

When ordinary Joes and Janes hear the words “comic books,” characters from one of two companies generally spring to mind; those companies being Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics. DC has fast become a financial powerhouse in the 21st century, due mostly to its film and television licensing rights as well as enviable sales figures for official merchandise depicting its legion-like library of characters. Superman – DC’s top property – spawned five feature films (the latest of which being “Superman: The Man of Steel”) and television series, such as the enduring “Smallville.”

For far longer, DC properties have been the basis for successful (and not so successful) video games on both console and PC. “DC Multiverse: The Game,” was launched for the PlayStation 3 last February in the hopes of winning a greater share of the mainstream entertainment market. Sadly for DC and its parent company, Warner Brothers, both sales and subscription revenue have fallen well below expectation.

It should come as no surprise that DC would not take kindly to what it saw was not only a breach of its own copyrights, but what they believe to be a direct contributor to this problem.

Mirroring their arch-nemesis, Marvel’s lawsuit from 2004, DC has filed a class action against the triumvirate of Marvel, Microsoft Games Studios (specifically Sigil Games) and Cryptic Studios. They allege that Cryptic have developed a game for Marvel and their games publisher Microsoft which, “…allows players to create superheroes that closely resemble trademarked DC Comics characters, thereby infringing upon [DC Comics’] intellectual property. Furthermore it has enabled players to generate unauthorized inter-company crossovers and thus breaches copyright.”

The subject of this legal action is of course the cross-platform Windows Vista and Xbox360 game “Marvel Universe Online,” which is essentially the culmination of irony and poetic justice in the eyes of gamers and comic book fans alike – for Cryptic Studios were themselves sued by Marvel over “City of Heroes.” In 2004, during a legal battle similar to this one Cryptic and their partner NCSoft settled with Marvel after many of the alleged infringement exhibits were thrown out by the judge due to the alleged violations by gamers were in fact fabrications by Marvel employees.

DC’s Senior VP of Legal and Business Affairs - Paula Lowitt - claimed, “It was brought to our attention that many players used Marvel Universe Online’s character creation engine to make characters who were nearly identical to our own, including facsimiles of heroes such as the Atom, the Question and Animal Man.”

While Joe Quesada and Tom Brevoort were unavailable for comment, we did manage to reach Brian Michael Bendis, who had this to say: “To be honest I think it’s a lot of hoopla over nothing. We’re just making comics while working with the game guys so the game follows the books in real time. The fact that the kids who play are helping us out by essentially creating their own stories lets us have spare time to do our own things.” At this point Brian said he had an urgent online conference to attend, and we left him as he headed towards the Marvel rec-room Xbox360.

It’s curious to note that Bendis, along with half of Marvel’s Editorial, cites (on his MySpace) visiting SuicideGirls.Com and playing online games among his hobbies. Presumably all this additional free time is spent in this manner. Some people believe that this is no coincidence, considering how the Bullpen  have always been practical jokers when it comes to their online identities.

One fan did make his voice known. Renowned games blogger [info]GleeForTeeVee suggested (on PopCultureShock) that, "DC's games have always been [terrible]. Justice League Heroes is the last of a long list of examples showcasing the fact that DC cannot get Third party developers to make a worthwhile game, and DC Multiverse is not going to change that. It's too **** to.” 

Marvel and company now have less than a week to dispute any claims before the case continues.

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 Toasty Blaire, New York—Much like mining for oil or burning down Amazonian Rainforest acres, the number of superheroines to rape, molest, or mind-handle had to run out sometime.

Yet Brad Meltzer was still shocked to discover that DC's main plotline for their luscious ladies had hit a “brick wall.” According to Meltzer, “We were at the bar, you know, just drinking and discussing the next crossover planned for the upcoming year. Somewhere in between Dan's chortling “delicious money, 'nyeheheh!' I said, “Hey, we still need a rape to retcon into a heroine's origin story. I was thinking Wonder Woman. That was when Winnick said, 'Bro, we raped that one already back in Infinite Crises on Infinite Crisis.' That was when I knew something had gone wrong at DC. Someone hadn't created enough females.”

Even Marvel, the competition, is in a similar state when the last unraped woman was retconned into the playfully tagged “rape 'em up!” writing angle, which took place a broom closet at aged five. (The miniseries sold 163,000 copies on its release, raking in another 303,550 copies in the coming months.)

Rape in comic books has become essential to the “femme” origin story in the past few years. Iconic writers like Kevin Smith retconned a rape into Black Cat's past to spur her to put on her tights, and Grey's Anatomy TV writer Alan Heinberg recently revealed molestation of all of the young females in Young Avengers.

But even the under-aged heroines “with those perky breasts and cute Hello Kitty panties”are all used up.

“I coulda sworn we still had Kitty Pryde or Jubilee left to ravage a few times,” Quesada said. “I don't know what we're going to do. Without rapes to remind our readers that our heroines are sexualized females, we might actually have to write real stories to motivate our women characters on the page.” And that can't happen, because Quesada was planning to launch another two Spider-man titles this year. “There's barely any room to address this dilemma."

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Crisis of Finite Plot Writers

by Dr. Wolf S. Vegas, Candidate for Internet Sheriff. New York

Only seven months ago, the world of fandom was shocked to its core and brought to a near standstill after the deaths of the only four comicbook writers active at the time. Tragically, after concluding the highly attended Comic Book Writers' Q&A panel at the Boston Comic Book & Toy Spectacular , Messrs Bendis, Ellis, Millar and Morrison were killed in an automobile accident on their way to their hotel from the celebration party.

"The accident was terrible," stated a teary eyed Quesada while, shedding tears at a press conference the following Monday. "Four friends have passed on who were a credit to the industry, but for us at Marvel the pain hits home far more. With Bendis and Ellis writing all our books, it's a struggle to continue as we scout for talent to replace them"

The problem has been a major factor of concern for many fans and art talents, MageBoy2k2 (a well known fan on various comic book forums) previously commented, "At the rate he's going, that Bendis character will be writing every comic on Earth. The delays have been bad enough with only four writers on the books - but one awful writer on everything would be an extremely untenable situation at best."

With the cost of the exclusive contracts of the early 2000s, many well-known and respected writers were unable to break into the world of comic book writing or progress once there - let alone any potential fresh talent. Dozens of of writers to find employment in other fields such as journalism, television, cinema and advertising. Former big names such as Brubaker, Busiek, David, Ennis, Johns, Layton, McKreever, Vaughn and Whedon - citing better offers, creative disagreements or general dissatisfaction - have one by one retired from comics over the last six years, leaving publishers with a talent drought they would be unable to rectify for over six months.

Former DC Comics Editor-in-Chief, DiDio, explained the problem he faced before his departure as follows, "Our backup plan of using Chuck Dixon and Devin Grayson on all the titles to replace the big four was... disastrous. I hadn't realized so many fans hated the two and that their enmity to each other over their rather extremely disparate writing strategies would sink us. I did honestly believe that a partnership between a prudish right-wing fascist and a bisexual liberal-lefty would work without resulting in any bloodshed." When asked to expand further, Didio did not comment on which description referred to whom.

The company that weathered the storm best out of the big four was perhaps Image Comics, "When Millar and Co. passed on, we had to come up with a solution to the problem. We decided to revive our successful commercial strategy of the Nineties, namely to get our artists to draw more T&A and write the damn books themselves. Our teenage demographic can hardly tell the difference," suggested a source from within their marketing team who wished to remain anonymous.

With the lack of writing talent, many titles were left indefinitely delayed with plot arcs left in limbo. This resulted in a major financial crash and recession in the comic book field. Thankfully the industry is slowly recovering, but the effects of the great crash - with former talents such as Gaiman, Kirkman, Nicieza and Stern (among others) has begun to repair the damage.

The return of some writers however has come with mixed response. "If Frank Miller writes another Robocop vs. Aliens vs. Predator vs. Terminator crossover story, I'll personally bomb Dark Horse's offices!" ranted an anonymous fan as reported by Something Awful.

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