Dave Sim's blogandmail #49 (October 30th, 2006)
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A fax from Mike Kitchen of Toronto, Ontario, Spy Guy [email@example.com]creator
Writing a letter to Dave Sim is hard. Seriously. It hurts the brain. Especially trying to discuss intellectual property rights, moral ideals, cross-universe continuity, comic book creative streams, retrofitting history, canonical vs. high iconic classifications, all in the same letter. Anyway, this is my best shot at it:
Hi Dave (and anyone else that is still reading this forum),
First off let me say right off the bat that I agree with just about everything you've said (to one extent or another). For the record (regarding crossovers) I didn't always think this way. The thing that planted the seed for the way I currently view intellectual property crossovers was this Cerebus vs. The Spirit entry into the Cerebus Archive Report #4:
"Iconic" "Cerebus vs. The Spirit" (1985/04) Cerebus Jam 1 "circa issue 6 (?), 1411 narrated from 1416
"Jam with Will Eisner" 1411.3
Disagree – Canon owing to reference to Garrison and "I first met the Pope"
After reading this, I sat staring at the screen, thinking "…but that means The Spirit exists in the Cerebus Universe! How can that be?"
The next entry that hit me like a shotgun blast to the face was the TMNT entry:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 8 (1986) "n/a" "The year is 1406" "1406"
DISAGREE potentially – Dave Sim – I had forgotten the 1406 reference in Kevin's script if that's what you're quoting. If it's in there, that would put it in the same category as "Cerebus Dreams": high iconic but capable of being transferred to Canon or NS Canon after the fact depending on the fit. Is there anything about 1406 that would disqualify it? If not, it could be incorporated into the MV depending on how Pete Laird felt about it or at least designated as Canon with an appropriate footnote.
After reading this one, I actually went back and re-read TMNT #8, and was surprised that the story could be argued as being more than just, you know, "a bit of fun" between two intellectual properties. That's the way I originally viewed these crossovers.
But as soon as I read those entries, my thinking changed. What finally solidified my current views is when I read the "canonical vs. high iconic" in the Cerebus Archives #3.5.
The only way this could all make sense to me (assuming canonical is the definitive story surrounding the character) is if those characters are also canonical to that universe which the central character inhabits. Which would mean those characters exist in that universe. Otherwise, how could it be canonical?
Now, to be clear: I am NOT suggesting that anyone write a handbook for Cerebus explaining how one intellectual property character got into the universe of another intellectual property rights character's universe. There would be no `The Spirit traveled through a magic portal and arrived in the Cerebus Universe" footnotes or whatnot.
What I AM suggesting is that "The Spirit" in the canonical Cerebus Universe is a high-iconic Spirit character that simply inhabits and co-exists with the other characters in the canonical Cerebus story. I don't think it needs to be explained any more than that. The story that is given to us in the Cerebus pages is sufficient enough.
I DO argue that this high-iconic version of "The Spirit" IS a Cerebus character, albeit one that happens to be trademark and copyright Will Eisner's Estate.
This is a creator's rights issue that should seriously be considered when deciding to do an intellectual property crossover. Say I was to do a Spy Guy/Nihilist Man crossover in my Spy Guy comic. I think a little common sense should be involved in the way I handle it. Let's say I decided to do the origin story of Spy Guy where Nihilist Man killed Spy Guy's father. At that point (assuming this is a canonical Spy Guy story) I've just contaminated the Spy Guy comic book river at the source with Al Nickerson's Nihilist Man. It would be conceivable at that point that for all of eternity Spy Guy would be out to get the man that killed his father – "Nihilist Man!" That would put a high-iconic Nihilist Man (trademark and copyright) Al Nickerson smack dab in the middle of the canonical Spy Guy universe (trademark and copyright) Mike Kitchen. Common sense would say to me that: 1). I should be sure that Al Nickerson doesn't have a problem with me having a high-iconic Nihilist Man (trademark and copyright) Al Nickerson running around in the Spy Guy Universe (trademark and copyright) Mike Kitchen for all eternity and that I have his blessing when I decide to make Spy Guy: The Movie where Spy Guy finally tracks down the man who killed his father, as well as the action figure merchandising that goes along with it. Or: 2) I don't go writing a character that is (trademark and copyright) Al Nickerson into the origin story of my central character.
Either option is valid. But it really is an either/or decision.
I suppose the third option is: 3). Don't worry about it, because I can always go back and bamboozle the audience later…
Now, if Al and I were to do a one-off team-up; "Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma'am!" in the iconic or high-iconic style, then that clearly puts it into the "bit of fun" between two intellectual properties category, and at that point, it's `nuff said. Still, it would be worth while for me to tell Al that I don't want any Al Nickerson action figures made recreating the Spy Guy/Nihilist Man team-up cover. Or, at the very least, if he does make action figures recreating the Spy Guy/Nihilist Man team-up cover (because I decide it is his creator's right to do so) that he at least be decent enough to cut me a check for designing (and owning) the Spy Guy character.
As a comic-book reader, being immersed in the story, I stand by my argument of a "complete canonical" universe…The idea being that, as a reader, you are suspending your disbelief and being immersed into a story, and while you are experiencing that story, you need to be able to take for granted that the characters and events are real (or "real"). You know, when Uncle Ben (or Cerebus) dies, he DIES. That's what makes the story powerful, and not like, you know, Elektra (or Supergirl). I mean, sure, if you want to resurrect them later, fine, that's your call as creator, but that's a whole `nother discussion.
My real interest in all of this is in building a logically sound foundation that I can use as a template for building my own comic-book universes on.
Another personal example…
Over 10 years ago, a group of friends from Kitchener created the Ruthless Comics Universe. I got involved in their Universe with my Knight Hawk character (which you actually pointed out to me at the Silver Snail that Neal Adams (?) owned the trademark – "D'OH!"). After that we expanded that Universe with my Ultraist comc characters and fus[ed] the two intellectual properties into the Biotech Universe (Knight Hawk becoming retrofitted as a non-canon character in the process).
When our plans changed and we decided not to continue doing the comic, I thought I had a personal "1963" on my hands. Basically the comic was over.
But, over the years, something happened. Ideas kept coming to me. The story haunted me (for lack of a better word). I decided at some point I would have to tell this story. But the question became "how?"
I thought of doing a "Chapel/Priest" retooling of the story (changing names and characters, etc.) but the idea didn't sit well with me. That, to me, wasn't the REAL story, or the REAl universe.
While my friend from Kitchener was working for a video game company, he asked what I thought of having the Biotech story turned into a video game. I was opposed to the idea, mostly because I didn't want a corporation to claim ownership of my characters. So that idea got dropped.
Right now, these characters are just sitting there…
I didn't know what the best course of action would be.
Until reading these Creative Manifesto discussions at the Creators' Rights Forum.
Now, I think I've found a good template where this "1963" can be resurrected, and all of the original creators can be properly compensated for their original contributions.
I'm willing to make my future endeavours a test case to see if the Creative Manifesto is a workable template that can withstand anything that life can throw at it.
I hope this all made sense, because I really don't know any other way to explain my opinions on this.
The "legal culpability," "creator inclination or disinclination" and "audience interest" is also an interesting point. The Super Ex-Girlfriend story and the TMNT vs. Howdy Doody story are always of interest to me. These allegories are priceless and useful for mapping the comic-book, direct-market and Hollywood landscape.
I am especially curious to see how this Animated Cerebus 3D thing turns out.
As for enjoying the Creator's Rights discussion…what can I say? I think it's a discussion worth having. I'll keep chiming in as long as the discussion keeps happening.
Thanks, Mike. See tomorrow's Blog & Mail for my response.
THERE'S MORE FOR YOU IN TODAY'S BLOG & MAIL.
THE LOVERS. THE DREAMERS. AND ME.
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
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P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
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