Zappa on America as a candy-coated dictatorship.
Month: May 2013
Quantum and Woody
I haven't talked about the questions surrounding the upcoming, non-Priest-and-Bright Quantum and Woody comic because there's so much we don't know and I didn't want to jump the gun.
Today, for the first time, we got word from Mark Bright that the situation with Valiant is "amicable":
As far as I know Priest hasn’t spoken to anyone about anything concerning Quantum and Woody other than myself and that happened only within the last month or so… Our position with Valiant isn’t adversarial. The people at Valiant have been more than willing to talk about what is happening at the company and with Quantum and Woody and with Priest and me. What happens from here is yet to be seen, but everything thus far has been amicable.
Pretty vague, but it gives me hope.
Let me back up. (Ooh, out-of-sequence storytelling. Just like...Quantum and Woody!)
Quantum and Woody was a comic book in the mid-1990's, created by writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Bright. It was a superhero buddy-cop comedy. It was funny as hell and became a cult hit; it remains one of my all-time favorite comic books.
Quantum and Woody was published by Acclaim, a video game company that was briefly in the comics business, having bought out a publisher called Valiant.
Priest and Bright's contract contained a reversion clause -- if the book went out of print, they had the opportunity to buy the rights.
But Acclaim went bankrupt. Its assets were auctioned off. Somebody bought the rights to its superhero line, and eventually a couple of Valiant fans bought the company name and those rights.
Now, I've done a bit of reading on bankruptcy law. And yes, it is possible for somebody to buy up copyrights without buying into the contracts associated with them. This is, legally, a breach of contract -- but the company liable for the breach is the bankrupt company, not the buyer.
Which, I'm not gonna lie, seems pretty goddamn stupid from where I'm sitting. What the fuck good is it to make a bankrupt company liable for anything? It's not like they're ever going to pay any damages.
Anyhow, the new Valiant doesn't appear to have done anything legally wrong. Indeed, they appear to be treating the old Valiant/Acclaim creators better than they're legally obligated to -- the article I linked above suggests that they are paying royalties for the back issues they've put up on Comixology, and while it doesn't cite a source, I think that would go a long way to explaining why things are "amicable" with Priest and Bright -- and Kevin Maguire, who had some harsh words for Valiant back in March but who has since smoothed things over with them.
So what happened, anyway?
Kevin Maguire claimed, back in a series of posts on Bleeding Cool in March, that Priest and Bright attempted to trigger their reversion rights before Acclaim's bankruptcy but that Acclaim stonewalled them on a technicality.
Rich Johnston, on the other hand, has uncovered a 2005 interview where Priest says he and Bright never acted on reversion because they were busy with other projects.
Now, it could be that Priest was being diplomatic and keeping things close to the vest -- that would be consistent with his silence on the matter these last few months.
Or it could be that Maguire is mistaken and Priest and Bright didn't attempt reversion.
The answers aren't clear, and probably never will be.
But it's good to hear that things are amicable, and it sounds like Valiant is in touch with Priest and Bright and is making an effort to do the right thing. That's great news.
What would be better would be to read some actual new material by Priest and Bright -- Quantum and Woody or anything else. Fingers crossed.
Meanwhile: IGN is running Quantum and Woody Weekly, by James Asmus and Ty Templeton, to promote the upcoming series. And I have to admit, the first one made me smile.
It's not Priest and Bright. But it's not bad.
Lost Interview Part 4
The LA freak scene, Einstein, and the Mothers.
Arpaio Wriggles Free Again
The bad news is that the Arpaio recall effort has failed to collect enough signatures.
The good news is he's been convicted of racial profiling in Melendres v Arpaio.
The bad news is that so far his only punishment is a judge telling him he's not allowed to racially profile people anymore.
Additional punishment could be forthcoming. But at this point, I'll believe it when I see it.
Lost Interview Part 3
He describes how he thinks his campaign would work -- and basically describes Nader's from 1996. Sometimes I can't decide if Frank is a bitter cynic or a naïve Pollyanna.
Then again, Frank gives a much more entertaining interview than Ralph.
And then we're on into Kennedy (I wonder what Frank would have thought of Clinton?), Nixon (I can guess what he would have thought of Bush), Johnson, and just a little bit of Carter, the Beatles, the Stones, and Lenny Bruce.
Sanity from Texas
The Texas legislature's passage of a landmark E-Mail privacy bill is something of a Nixon-goes-to-China moment: nobody is going to accuse Texas of being soft on crime or caving to the ACLU.
Perry hasn't signed it yet, and there's still a chance he could veto it. But the nice thing about having a Democrat in the White House is that Republicans suddenly remember that government invasions of privacy are bad.
I've been saying for years that Republicans had real potential to reverse some of the excesses of the post-9/11 security apparatus, if only they would realize they could use it as a bludgeon against Obama and still keep their reputation as the Tough On Terror, Tough On Crime, Strong On National Security Party.
(In this case, of course, "post-9/11 security apparatus" is an oversimplification, as current computer privacy law dates back to 1986. Still, I think my point stands.)
Perry's still got the opportunity to continue on with the status quo. But there's a real opportunity here. We're living in a nation with a toxic mix of archaic technology law and cutting-edge surveillance techniques, and opportunists in both the public and private sector who are all too happy to exploit the disparity.
Lost Interview Part 2
Continuing thoughts on McCarthy, and then a right turn to Elvis. And from there to the origins of Elvis's music in R&B and "race music" and the pernicious effects of good old-fashioned 1950's-vintage racism. Then Duck and Cover and politics in general, and more later...
Rapture of the Nerds
Rapture of the Nerds is about what you'd expect from a collaboration between Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow: brimming with big ideas, clever in the technical details, a little on the unfocused side when it comes to actual storytelling.
I enjoyed it. Didn't care much for any of the characters, but I don't think you're supposed to. Some of the plot developments were predictable, many weren't; in at least one case a Chekov's Gun feels like it doesn't quite fire, but for the most part the authors do a great job of following up on the plot threads they start. The climax is clever if, again, unfocused and over too soon.
Well, I guess this makes for a somewhat unfocused review lacking in followthrough, too, which is appropriate enough -- I thought I had more to say but I guess I don't, and anyway I'm tired. The book's well worth a read, and since it's creative commons you can read it for free and then decide if it's worth more than that to you.
Lost Interview Part 1
A late interview -- 1990; a few years before Zappa died. In this bit the interviewer asks him about early influences; Frank tells the oft-repeated story about phoning up Edgard Varèse on his fifteenth birthday. Then he moves on up through World War II, Eisenhower, and "that naughty old Joe McCarthy." Uploaded by TheNilesLeshProject.
Well, I did end up making it to Phoenix Comicon this past Saturday. I'm still not feeling top of my game but I'm improving.
The whole thing was pretty overwhelming and uncomfortable but I managed to meet and get autographs from most of the creators I wanted: Mike and Laura Allred signed my X-Force #116 and commented proudly that it was the book that signaled an end of the Comics Code; I also got autographs from Ben Templesmith (Fell #1), Mike Mignola (the first Hellboy trade), Terry Moore (Echo #1), and John Layman (Chew #5). I brought a TMNT #50 in case I got a chance to meet Kevin Eastman, but he was one of the few creators who had a long line.
Really I think that's the best thing about Phoenix Comicon: so many creators, so few lines.
Case in point: the legendary Don Rosa.
The only piece of merchandise I wound up buying at the convention was a signed print of Uncle Scrooge diving into his money bin. I chatted with Mr. Rosa a bit and told him how much I appreciated his work and his recent Epilogue essay, where, among other things, he discussed how poorly he's been treated by Disney. Disney refused to allow the essay to be printed in The Don Rosa Collection; Rosa commented to me that that resulted in far more people reading it than would have if they had just printed it. I told him that there's a name for that on the Internet: the Streisand Effect.
Don Rosa is one of the most popular cartoonists in the world. In the few minutes I got to speak with him, I also found him to be a sharp, funny, genuinely nice man.
He's an inspiration -- and I think one of the things he should inspire people to do is to get mad. Mad that a man of his talent, a man who has made the Disney corporation millions, only ever got a page rate for the work he did.
Shame on Disney. And all my gratitude to Mr. Rosa. I'll be putting this print in a frame and keeping it forever -- and remembering that I put some money in the artist's pocket, which, sadly, he doesn't get when you buy a copy of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.