Captain America co-creator Joe Simon has died. The legendary Simon, who collaborated with Jack Kirby on other characters as well, died Wednesday night in New York City after a brief illness. He was 98. Athough Simon was a successful artist and editor in his own right, he remains best known for his partnership with Kirby. The duo worked hand-in-glove for years and from their fertile imaginations flowed a trove of characters, heroes, villains and misfits in the Golden Age of comic books during the 1940s. They worked for Timely, the forerunner of Marvel Comics; National Periodicals, the forerunner of DC and home of Superman; and Fawcett, among others. Their partnership led to additional creations the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos and many others including Blue Bolt. Simon and Kirby’s work was known for its dynamism and ingenuity. Interrupted by service during World War II, they resumed their collaboration afterward, including the first romance comics in Young Love for Crestwood Publications and horror series Black Magic and the political satire Fighting American. They were never able, however, to break free from working for other publishers. In the late ’50s they went their separate ways. Simon attempted to regain his and Kirby’s rights to Captain America from Marvel but despite a significant appellate court victory he settled with Marvel and did not regain the rights. Simon is survived by two sons, three daughters and eight grandchildren.
BURBANK, Calif. — Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP), with DC Entertainment, announced today that it has extended its successful relationship with leading worldwide toy manufacturer, Mattel, Inc. The new multi-year agreement allows Mattel to continue as master toy licensee for the complete universe of DC Comics characters. Under the terms of this strategic alliance, Mattel is granted unprecedented access to the complete breadth and scope of the DC Comics vault of characters, which includes more than a thousand world-famous DC Comics Super Heroes and DC Comics Super Villains, such as Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Joker. Further, the agreement includes popular characters such as The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam!, Green Arrow and Hawkman.
Ruling on behalf of Warner Bros., a federal judge on Tuesday rejected copyright lawyer Marc Toberoff’s claims that his actions as lawyer for heirs of the co-creators of Superman were protected against legal interference. In so doing the judge allowed Warner Bros.’ lawsuit against Toberoff to move forward. The judge also granted Warner Bros access to a July 2003 letter from Laura Siegel to her late brother Michael. Warner Bros. outside counsel Daniel Petrocelli is seeking to undo Toberoff’s relationship with the heirs of Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster by accusing the attorney of interfering as a competing business owner in agreements the studio and DC had made with the heirs.
Petrocelli was hired to come up with a strategy to prevent the studio from possibly losing a portion of the copyright to Superman in 2013 as a court has previously ruled. Petrocelli filed the current lawsuit last May to put Toberoff in a position where he might have to resign as the attorney for the Siegels and Shusters. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright found that the studio’s argument “makes sense.” He ruled that because Toberoff had established business arrangements through his own company Pacific Pictures with heirs of Siegel and Shuster, he was not protected under California’s anti-SLAAP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute that protects rights owners against legal intimidation. Wright rejected Toberoff’s anti-SLAPP argument, ruling that he was acting in his capacity as a businessman, not a lawyer, through Pacific Pictures — specifically concerning exploitation of Joe Shuster’s creations.
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has bought The Spectre, a drama series project based on the DC Comics superhero character co-created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily. Brandon Camp (John Doe) will write the adaptation and executive produce with feature producer Bill Gerber (Gran Torino). The Spectre, which has received a script commitment, centers on a former cop serving time in afterlife limbo who hunts down earthly criminals on behalf of the dead — and mortals soon to be dead if ultimate justice is not served. DC Entertainment’s sister TV studio Warner Bros TV will produce with Gerber Pictures. The Spectre character first appeared in an 1940 issue of DC’s More Fun Comics. Since then, he has been featured in a number of other DC titles and has headlined his own comic book series. Camp was introduced to The Spectre property by DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer Geoff Johns. The project marks Camp’s return to TV and reunion with Fox; he co-created the network’s 2002 mystery drama John Doe. On the feature side, UTA-repped Camp co-wrote and directed the 2009 Jennifer Aniston movie Love Happens. The Spectre also puts Fox back in the comic book adaptation business and reunites the network with DC following their recent collaboration on Human Target.
EXCLUSIVE: With Smallville ending its 10-season run this past May, the CW has made launching a new superhero franchise based on a DC property a priority. The network’s first effort this development season is Deadman, a drama based on the DC Comics books by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, which will be written and executive produced by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. The project is about the spirit of a murdered man, Boston Brand, who lives on as he inhabits other people’s bodies and helps them solve crises in their own lives. It is produced by Warner Bros TV, which handles the mining of the DC catalog for TV series.
“We’re looking next year to do a superhero show if the right superhero comes to be,” CW president Mark Pedowitz said at TCA last month, noting the advantage of having Time Warner-owned DC Comics in the family. (CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros Entertainment and CBS). Getting Kripke to develop Deadman seems like a no-brainer as he is the man behind CW’s longest-running scripted series on the air. Sci-fi drama Supernatural enters its seventh season this fall and Pedowitz recently indicated that it is not intended to be the show’s last. While no longer a hands-on showrunner (Supernatural is co-run by Sera Gamble and Robert Singer), Kripke continues to serve as an executive producer.
UPDATE: Jeff Bewkes Admits ‘Green Lantern’ Not As Bright As Expected As Time Warner Beats 2Q Estimates
UPDATE, 9:30 AM: CEO Jeff Bewkes tried to stick to his optimistic story for Time Warner, but analysts forced him to play defense as well in this morning’s quarterly earnings call. In response to a question, Bewkes acknowledged that Green Lantern “did not live up to expectations” — although he wouldn’t say whether Warner Bros has ruled out a sequel. Despite the film’s disappointing performance, the CEO says that he’s “not concerned” about the studio’s effort to capitalize on DC Comics superheroes: “DC will be a major contributor,” with new films on tap featuring Batman and Superman.
Bewkes also said that TNT and TBS’ ratings suffered because “we had some bad programming choices in series we acquired over the last few years.” The problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that some of the shows were also available on digital platforms. As streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu become more popular, “hit shows win, and mediocre stuff loses.” Turner hopes to fix the problem by adding reruns of popular series including The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-0. One hit “can have a significant impact,” Bewkes says. He urged analysts to keep an eye on Time Warner’s upcoming initiatives involving Flixster, the movie site it recently bought, and the entertainment industry’s UltraViolet program that enables consumers who buy a home video to access it on almost any kind of device. Beginning with Warners’ Green Lantern the “vast majority” of its releases will work with UltraViolet, Bewkes says. He adds that a beta version of Flixster that will be “deeply integrated” with UltraViolet will be released this week. Beginning this fall, consumers also will be able to bring DVDs they already own to retailers who will be able to make them available from the broadband cloud. All in all, investors seemed unimpressed with today’s news even though the financial numbers beat analyst estimates: Time Warner shares are down about 2.2% in mid-day trading.
PREVIOUS, 4:42 AM: The entertainment giant ended 2Q with net income of $638M, up 13.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $7B, up 10.2%. Earnings at 60 cents a share handily beat the Street’s forecast of 56 cents. Analysts also anticipated revenues of $6.8B.
UPDATE: There’s been another development in the Superman copyright litigation case. Actually, this is a carnival sideshow to that case and a disgusting exercise by DC Comics and its big Hollywood studio Warner Bros to continue to trample the rights of the Superman rights-holders, the estates of co-creators Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster. When DC and WB couldn’t weasel out of paying the families of Siegel and Shuster what is rightfully owed and reverting copyright back to them, they decided to go after their archnemesis, Superman copyright lawyer Marc Toberoff, who’s been a longtime thorn in Warner Bros’ side because he represents showbiz rights-holders and wins their cases against the studio. The result was that, a year ago, Warner Bros and DC Comics decided to sue Toberoff alleging he had a role as a financial participant in the Superman rights fight with the studio and therefore a conflict of interest repping his clients. Today, a U.S. District Court judge denied an appeal of a magistrate’s ruling which held that “the defendants waived privilege on numerous attorney-client communications stolen from their counsel’s law firm by producing such documents to the United States Attorney’s Office investigating the theft pursuant to a Grand Jury subpoena and a confidentiality agreement.” Forget all the legal mumbo-jumbo, let’s examine what’s really at work here. And it’s that DC Comics and Warner Bros are basing their entire case against Toberoff on stolen documents from his office. That’s right: stolen documents. In my view the Time Warner subsidiaries should be ashamed of themselves.
DC Comics will release Justice League Issue 1 digitally on Aug. 31, kick-starting an initiative in which the company will renumber its entire line of superhero comics from No. 1 and launch them day-and-date with their print debuts. Justice League marks the first collaboration between DC Entertainment chief creative officer Geoff Johns and DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee; the pair will introduce an origin story for the legendary superhero team. DC Comics says it is the first major American comics publisher to release all of its superhero titles digitally the same day as their print premieres.
2ND UPDATE: Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley felt that Gregory Noveck was a self-starter who’ll be able to get Syfy Films up and running quick enough to have a couple of films ready for release in 2012. Now, the studio isn’t looking for the division to make feature versions of Mansquito or Sharktopus, Piranhaconda or Snowmageddon, some of the pics being programmed for the network. The model will be more in the Paranormal Activity mode, or Syfy projects like Battlestar Galactica and the miniseries Taken, with Noveck taking advantage of being able to make films in the $15 million-$25 million budget range.
From a distance, it didn’t seem as though Noveck was able to get DC Comics’ film productions going beyond the Batman and Superman franchises. But Syfy president Mark Stern said the network collaborated with him on TV projects and that he worked closely on Batman, Watchmen and the Green Lantern franchises. “If we had to write a resume for the job, we couldn’t have done better than Gregory’s resume,” Stern said. “He’s a self-starter, thinks outside the box and captures what we want to do here. That is to exploit our expertise in the genre and make films with a certain scrappiness and entrepreneurial attitude.”
UPDATE: Universal Pictures has confirmed Gregory Noveck’s appointment. Release below the original break of the story.
BREAKING: Greg Noveck, most recently the top guy at Warner Bros and its DC Comics, is about to be named head of Syfy Films, the feature …
EXCLUSIVE: Today Lois Lane was cast for Warner Bros’ Superman movie reboot. So it’s fitting to note that, on February 12th, the widow of Superman co-creator Jerome Siegel died of heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital at age 93. While much has been made of the fact that she was the model for Lois Lane, Joanne Siegel also was a driving force along with the estate of Joe Shuster to recapture the entire original copyright to Superman. The Siegel heirs have already been awarded half the copyright for Superman. And in 2013 the Shuster heirs get the remaining half. After that, neither DC Comics nor Warner Bros will be able to use Superman without a financial agreement with the Siegels and Shusters. There are also stipulations on what parts of the origins story can be used in future Superman movies and which require re-negotiations with the creators’ heirs or estates. But Warner Bros keeps fighting the Siegel and Shuster heirs and last May seized on a new hardball strategy: to force their attorney Marc Toberoff to resign by filing a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles raising questions about his alleged role as a financial participant in the Superman copyright. Before her death, Joanne Siegel was preparing the following letter obtained by Deadline:
December 10, 2010
Jeffrey L. Bewkes
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Time Warner Inc.
I am Joanne Siegel widow of Jerry Siegel, creator of Superboy and co-creator of Superman with Joe Shuster. It has always been my policy to be in touch with the Chairmen of the Board of your company going back to when Steve Ross formed Warner Communications.
Steve Ross knew how to take care of large vexing problems. He paid the price, whatever it was, then went on, and the company prospered. He was gracious and friendly when my late husband Jerry and I met him at a stockholders meeting after he sent Jerry, Joe, my daughter Laura and me company stock. He also phoned me to say if we needed anything I should just pick up the phone and call him. He said if he could not be reached for some reason, one of the top officers in the company, Deane Johnson, would handle things personally. Laura and I believe if Steve were alive our copyright ownership matter would have been successfully resolved long ago.
Jerry Levin was also reachable and thoughtful. He sent my husband and later me, cases of grapefruit at the holiday season. He remembered Jerry’s birthday with a Superman sculpture. When my Jerry passed away, Jerry Levin told Laura and me that we are part of the Time Warner family, part of its history. Unfortunately he retired before our rights issues were resolved. He had given his attorneys too much power so that negotiations were unsatisfactory and a settlement was impossible. Dick Parsons, on the other hand, was not friendly and, under him, the attorneys hired by the company were arrogant and pro-litigation.
Now you are Chairman and CEO. Because we are in litigation I held off writing to you. I now believe had we had contact early on, things might not have gone so far off track.
My daughter Laura and I, as well as the Shuster estate, have done nothing more than exercise our rights under the Copyright Act. Yet, your company has chosen to sue us and our long-time attorney for protecting our rights.
On December 1st I turned 93. I am old enough to be your mother. I have grown grandchildren. Unfortunately I am not in the best of health. My cardiologist provided a letter to your attorneys informing them that I suffer from a serious heart condition and that forcing me to go through yet another stressful deposition could put me in danger of a heart attack or stroke. I am also on medications that have side effects which force me to stay close to home and restrooms. Nonetheless your attorneys are forcing me to endure a second deposition even though I have already undergone a deposition for a full day in this matter. As clearly they would be covering the same ground, their intention is to harass me.
My dear daughter Laura too has painful medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, arthritis, glaucoma, spine disorders, and fibromyalgia. She has already had her deposition taken twice by your attorneys while in pain. Her doctors have given written statements saying she should not be subjected to a third deposition, yet your attorneys are insisting on re-taking her deposition in an effort to harass her as well.
So I ask you to please consider – do these mean spirited tactics meet with your approval? Do you really think the families of Superman’s creators should be treated this way?
As you know, DC and Warner Bros. have profited enormously from 72 years of exploiting Jerry and Joe’s wonderful creation. Superman is now a billion dollar franchise and has been DC’s flagship property for all this time.
As for this letter, the purpose is three-fold:
New York, October 7, 2010 – Beginning January 2011, DC Comics will implement a line-wide pricing adjustment, lowering the prices of all standard length 32-page ongoing comic book titles currently priced at $3.99 to $2.99, it was announced today by DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio.
“Today’s announcement re-affirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.”
“As Co-Publishers, we listened to our fans and to our partners in the retail community who told us that a $3.99 price point for 32 pages was too expensive. Fans were becoming increasingly reluctant to sample new titles and long term fans were beginning to abandon titles and characters that they’d collected for years.” said Dan DiDio, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “We needed a progressive pricing strategy that supports our existing business model and, more importantly, allows this creative industry to thrive for years to come. With the exceptions of oversized comic books, like annuals and specials, we are committed to a $2.99 price point.”
When taking into account mini-series, annuals and specials, more than 80% of DC’s comic books will be priced at $2.99.
As of January, the following titles standard length ongoing titles, previously priced at $3.99 for 32 pages/22 story
As part of Warner Bros. Entertainment’s efforts to better integrate the DC Comics business, DC Entertainment will relocate its multi-media and digital content production operations to Warner Bros.’ lot in Burbank, California. That includes all businesses related to the development and production of feature films, television, digital media, video games and consumer products as well as the company’s administrative offices. Only DCE’s publishing operations will remain in New York. The move is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011 and will involve layoffs as well as personnel relocations. “This strategic business realignment allows us to fully integrate and expand the DC brand in feature films as well as across multiple distribution platforms of Warner Bros. and Time Warner,” said Jeff Robinov, President, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, “We are creating a seamless, cohesive unit.”
Speaking at an investor relations conference last week, Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer touted maximizing DC’s potential as a priority for Warner Bros. and said that a DC slate of new projects will be announced by the end of the year.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that an internal memo just went out at DC Entertainment announcing that Gregory Noveck will be transitioning out of his job over the next three months. He’ll be resuming his producing career. Noveck spent the past 6 years with DC Comics as SVP of creative affairs, hired by president/publisher Paul Levitz to help mine the library of DC properties for movie and other media adaptation until Diane Nelson took over the newly created DC Entertainment last September to better integrate DC’s theatrical and TV releases with Warner Bros.
Noveck was most hands-on with the DC Universe line of direct-to-video animation, and also the production of the Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics documentary, and, most notably, the upcoming film Red. He’s an executive producer on that Summit Entertainment release this October adapted to the big screen from Warren Ellis’ and Cully Hamner’s comic book.
I hear Fox’s action drama Human Target is adding a female lead for Season 2 and has cast British actress Indira Varma for it. The series, based on the DC Comic about unorthodox bodyguard Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), stood out in its first season with an all-male regular cast of 3, Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley, probably the smallest core cast I’ve seen on a drama series in a long time. Now the show is adding a fourth regular, Varma.
EXCLUSIVE: Working Title Films partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner have made a deal to turn Kurt Busiek’s graphic novel series Astro City into a live action feature. The deal gives the prolific comic book writer Busiek his first chance to write the script. Launched in 1995, the series has a Sin City anthology vibe, set in a world crammed with superheros and super-villains. Stories are told from the vantage point of those heroes and villains, as well as the humans who get caught between them. Heroes range from Samaritan, The Hanged Man, The Apollo Eleven–a group of astronauts mutated during a moon landing–to Winged Beauty, a feisty feminist who always saves women first. The series has won multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards for Busiek, who created the series with artists Brent Anderson and Alex Ross.
Aside from his own comic creations, Busiek has written for Marvel Comics staples like Iron Man, The Avengers and Spider-Man, and for DC Comics on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. He continues writing new installments of Astro City, but is also working with Alex Ross on a revival of Jack Kirby’s concepts, and Busiek is launching his own urban fantasy series The Witchlands. The deal, brokered by Mosaic’s Nick Harris, is worth seven-figures if the film gets made. Bevan and Fellner will produce, with Ben Barenholtz, Busiek and Jonathan Alpers exec producing. The latter trio took a crack at a movie version in 2003, but …
EXCLUSIVE: DC Comics is already doing a second print run after more than 60,000 copies were snapped up. There will be 100,000 in all for the issue. Downloads of the free issue preview for Wonder Woman #600 though DC Comic’s one-week-old digital publishing app have been “phenomenal”, a source tells me.
DC Comics has just given me exclusively this graphic art by Don Kramer, the new artist for the “updated” Wonder Woman comic book. (Copyright DC Comics)
My own thoughts about her: DC Comics Has Ruined Wonder Woman!
DC Comics announced that, starting today, Wonder Woman “will appear like you’ve never seen her before”. And I wish they’d just left her alone, especially since she’s the only comic book character female I’ve ever admired. Of course, it took a bunch of men to ruin her. Look at the new costume design by DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee below: she looks ready for Goth Day at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. (Shame on Diane Nelson, the head of DC Entertainment, for allowing this to happen. And for not finding a talented woman writer now as in years past to update the icon’s saga.) Here’s the announcement about the dumbass stuff that DC Comics is doing to her. So let me start the campaign: FREE WONDER WOMAN!
DC Comics Co-Publisher and bestselling artist Jim Lee has redesigned her costume for the modern era, just in time for BABYLON 5 creator and critically acclaimed writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists Don Kramer and Michael Babinski to launch the Amazon Princess into an exciting and epic new era of adventure.
Starting with their story in WONDER WOMAN #600, which is in comic shops today, Straczynski and Kramer will begin a run that is both forward-looking and true to the legendary character, planting her firmly in the modern era.
Here’s what J. Michael Straczynski had to
NEW YORK / BURBANK, Calif., June 23, 2010 – DC Comics, publisher of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Fables, is partnering with comiXology and PlayStation®Network for two separate digital comics distribution deals launching today, Wednesday, June 23. In addition, a DC Comics App for the iPhone®, iPad® and iPod® Touch is available allowing consumers an easy way to access DC Comics’ content. The announcement was made jointly today by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.
“At DC Comics, it has been a top priority that DC forges a meaningful, forward-looking digital strategy,” said Jim Lee, Co-Publisher, DC Comics. “As both a comic book creator and Co-Publisher, it was incredibly important that our plan includes not only creator incentive payments, but also an innovative component that supports comic shop owners. We see digital as an opportunity to grow our entire business.”
Both the comiXology and the PlayStation Network Digital Comics launch offerings will include classic titles from DC Comics, Vertigo and WildStorm, such as Batman: Hush, Green Lantern: Rebirth, Fables: Legends in Exiles and Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories. Both programs will share a tiered pricing format, with digital comics priced from $.99 to $2.99 per issue. The Justice League: Generation Lost mini-series will be available through both platforms day and date with each issue’s print edition on-sale date, with both the digital and print editions priced at $2.99. Several comics will be available for free at launch, including the first installment of the ZUDA series Bayou and select stories from Batman: Black & White.
To further promote today’s announcement, DC Comics is offering a free 10-page preview of the 700th issue of Superman available through both platforms, day and date with the issue going on sale in comic book stores. The 10 page story is a prelude to writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Eddy Barrows’ highly anticipated “Grounded” storyline that will be published in Superman which will examine how Superman sees America, and how America sees Superman.
“Grounded is a major turning point in the history of Superman,” said Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher of DC Comics. “This storyline has the potential to generate national headlines and bring new readers the series.”