Thursday 24 March 2016

The Cerebus Oversize Project #5: The Duck

I'm not sure I'm even allowed to do this.  It's very weird to be Comics' Greatest Outlaw because the entire field -- very pointedly -- pretends that you don't exist.

Which means that the odds are whoever owns this character for whom I did this piece way back in the 1980s will never find out that I'm selling copies of it.  

Which I'm not. I mean, right NOW, I'm just showing you what it looks like, very publicly.  Publicly enough that if the publisher of this character was to find out that I was THINKING of selling copies of this piece, they could certainly let me know in no uncertain terms that they didn't want me to do this.  And if they let me know that, I would certainly take down this image Pronto.  

[Yes, Kemosabe?]

[Not "Tonto" -- "Pronto".]

[I wrote that line in a movie script on worked on with Lenny Henry a number of years ago and am pleased to steal it back from myself]

So, let's leave it at that.  Doesn't this frontispiece from a certain 1980s magazine version of a nameless comic-book character look cool with the original green painted halftones?  Just thought you'd like to see it. Unless of course I don't hear from anyone in the next couple of weeks, in which case you'll be able to buy it.



Sean R said...

Thanks for doing this, Dave and Sandeep. This is an awesome idea, and a fantastic selection of images. (I've, uh, cheated and peeked at a preview Sandeep sent me...) Maybe one day in the distant future there will be an oversized, actual-copy-table-sized "Art of Dave Sim" book, but until that decade, this is tops!

When this launches, if anyone wants any advice in printing their images, please let me know! Good start-Office Depots are usually surprisingly well-equipped, assuming their machines are maintained.

Phil S said...

The green half tones do look amazing. Wow. Can't wait to order this one.

Sean R said...

Dave-- was the green a non-repro indication for someone in the M.C. production department to supply halftones? How did it work? Very curious to hear any details you can provide.

Paul Slade said...

I've known this page for decades but it's only today I realised the Muck Thing is making a Daffy Duck reference. Daffy has exactly the same expression and line just before something terrible happens to him in one of the old Warner Brother cartoons.

Anonymous said...

This seems, to me, like a really bad idea. You've pretty much acknowledged here that you realize there are intellectual property issues involved in selling this piece.

1) If the owner were to discover this later, you might suddenly have a large bill to deal with in compensating them for those sales, not to mention fees for lawyers.

2) Even if they didn't notice, from a moral/ethical standpoint, it seems like it would be a very touchy thing to do. As an example, as I now know there are likely such issues at play in selling copies of this piece, I would be unwilling to purchase such a copy.

I'm not telling anyone what to do, but I'd think long and hard before I decided to enrich myself through another person's copyright.

Sean R said...

Dear Anonymous--

This is hardly settled law. Certainly someone could theoretically be sued for it. Certainly vast piles of money could be burned in high-priced law firms pursuing a meager amount of moolah over it. But would such a (hypothetical) lawsuit with (equally hypothetical) lawyers supplied with an infinite amount of billable hours actually prevail against the artist who created this piece? Very, very doubtful, especially since the mark isn't being used to promote the sale of the piece.

Now, I'm no copyright attourney, just someone who's read an awful lot on the subject and even written a bit myself- but it looks pretty safe (and certainly moral) to me.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

FYI - Marvel only think they own "Howard". Co-creator Steve Gerber managed to smuggle him out of the Marvel Universe in that 'Savage Dragon / Destroyer Duck' Crossover back in 1996:

"The issue was basically done as a means for Steve Gerber to take back his creation, Howard the Duck, from Marvel Comics by any means necessary. By cleverly writing the same event into two comics at once (Spider-Man Team-Up #5 and Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck #1), albeit from two separate perspectives, Gerber successfully managed to sneak his creation back from Marvel’s clutches, albeit in a rather abstract and out-of-the-box manner."

"Spider-Man Team-Up #5 features Howard entering a warehouse fight and leaving with the titular webhead. This comic shows us what really happened, as the “Howard” that left with Spidey was no more than a soulless clone created by the Elf, while the real Howard escaped with Dragon and Destroyer Duck, joining the witness protection and changing his name to “Leonard” (after a quick dye-job and a pair of glasses for disguise)."

"It’s a very sly way of sticking it to the corporation that stole his creation and a clever maneuver I applaud Gerber for making. Sure, Marvel remains free to use their “Howard” as much as they want, but all it’ll ever be is a “soulless clone” without Gerber. A not-so-subtle metaphor, sure, but an apt one at any rate."

More details here:

Sean R said...

(Not only am I not an attorney, apparently I can't even spell attorney correctly...)

Michael Grabowski said...

Was the original work not done under a work-made-for-hire arrangement where the ownership of the work (regardless of character ownership) remained with the purchasing agency? Or did they have a different arrangement for magazine work (like Epic Illustrated)?

Unknown said...

SeanR - It was definitely just half-toned in the magazine. I had seen Mort Drucker originals from MAD magazine at a Toronto convention and had been intrigued by the fact that the washes he was using were definitely colour and not just diluted black ink. I don't THINK that I used green. I think it was a pale blue that faded to the green colour that you see here over the (many) years. The grey tones are lead pencil and some black crayon.

The image and contents -- IN TOTO -- as far as I'm concerned, are definitely the property of MARVEL.

There might be a fuzzy area when it comes to BULKY DUCK or the unnamed MUCK THING if you go by the verdict in the Gaiman vs. McFarlane lawsuit where Neil ended up owning MEDIEVAL SPAWN. That is, if you do a mash-up with a character you own the mash-up. PERSONALLY, I don't buy that and I don't think that would ultimately be sustained or every writer and artist would own anything they wrote and drew in the "mash-up" category. And I would never use that as a basis for my own rights as a creator.

The piece was work-made-for-hire as far as I know although it's unlikely that MARVEL would still have the one-page waive I signed on-file this many years later.

No question about it: it would be an open-and-shut case for MARVEL and they would be well within their rights to demand every penny the image earned and whatever they thought were reasonable damages.

We'll see what happens. If anything.

Unknown said...

AMOC FYI - That's a VERY interesting use of Comic Art Metaphysics on Steve Gerber's part. I'm not sure that it didn't lead to his premature death (Comic Art Metaphysics, as I understand it, being what it is) depending on how it was inferred in the "upper reaches".

The mere act of posing (or, perhaps more accurately) incarnating a "nutcracker" question like that in a two-dimensional context -- did Steve Gerber steal "steal" or Steal HOWARD THE DUCK by writing that story? Did MARVEL concede ownership by signing off on the script without demanding to see the other part of the cross-over and/or not reading the legal implications accurately? -- with the compelled inference that his ownership was now True in our three-dimensional world and the implication that it was thereby True in the fourth-dimensional context...

I think that would "mix" very badly with whatever confidential agreement Steve signed when he settled the HOWARD THE DUCK lawsuit. The higher up you go in the "upper reaches" the more transparent motive becomes. You can pose/incarnate an interesting question if you're genuinely looking to clarify something or make a helpful point. If you're just "causing s--t" -- mm -- not so much.

The fourth-dimensional context OFTEN takes a dim view of those kinds of things, as far as I can see. Mostly because the higher sentiences involved at one level or another have to either unravel the metaphysical Gordian Knot or leave it sitting there for someone else to use.

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

If Dave thinks that the entire comics field is pretending that Dave Sim doesn't exist, then why would he think that posting it here constitutes a "very public" notice to the major publisher in that field?

How much of Strange Death is an discussion of realistic comics art generally and Alex Raymond specifically, and how much is Dave presenting "comics metaphysics"? I fear the latter will cement Dave's reputation as the Jack Chick of the comics world.

I have criticized the quality of Dave's thinking. But it really is quite entertaining -- not because he's right, but because it's amusing to read the reports he sends back from the alternate reality he inhabits.

Take it away, Jeff!

-- Damian

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Isn't Jack Chick the "Jack Chick of the comics world"?

Travis Pelkie said...

Recently posted on Diamond's site, coming in next week's catalog of items due out in June or later:


(W) Bill Mantlo (A) Various (CA) John Pound
Discover rare, never-before-collected tales of the duck with delusions of adequacy as Marvel's trawl through the annals of Howard history plunders the magazine era! As rendered by legends like Gene Colan, John Buscema and Michael Golden, Howie has never looked better - while his adventures get wilder than ever. Who can resist epics like "Of Dice and Ducks," "Captain Americana" and "Duck Soup"? Howard will reunite with muck monster Man-Thing and meet Santa Claus, and one of horror's greatest icons may leave a lasting impression: prepare for Drakula, the undead duck! It's enough to make a furious fowl head back home to Duckworld - and Beverly comes along for the ride! Plus: In the name of all that's decent, Howard puts on some pants! Collecting HOWARD THE DUCK MAGAZINE #2-7.
Rated T+
Item Code: APR161098
In Shops: 7/20/2016
SRP: $34.99

However, I see that this apparently first appeared in #8, so...

CerebusTV said...

Jack Chick's had a mighty long run as a comics self-publisher...

al roney said...

FWIW - Dave and Damian's posts are BY FAR THE MOST ENJOYABLE...

the rest of ya need to step it up...


Anonymous said...

the verdict in the Gaiman vs. McFarlane lawsuit where Neil ended up owning MEDIEVAL SPAWN. That is, if you do a mash-up with a character you own the mash-up.

Gaiman did not end up owning Medieval Spawn; IIRC, he traded his co-creator share of Medieval Spawn and Cagliostro for Todd's co-creator share of Angela. (I don't think anyone publicly knows whether Gaiman has subsequently gifted, licensed, loaned or traded his rights in Angela to Marvel.)

It's inarguable that Cagliostro and Angela were standard co-creations; one doubts that Gaiman would have cared at all about nor pursued a claim to any part of Medieval Spawn, were it not for the repeated failure of McFarlane to deliver on agreed royalties for use of Gaiman's co-contributions in comics, merchandise, other media and reprints, including eventually what the judge agreed were spin-offs from both the initial notion of a "Medieval Spawn" and angelic antagonists of Spawns.

Jerry Siegel sold his rights in Superboy separately, and for more money, than his rights in Superman.

- Kit

Unknown said...

Kit - The problem in all of these instances is that what we're discussing is "hearsay" of what happened. It makes it all but impossible to have a really well-informed discussion of anything that touches on creators' rights. Lawyers -- for obvious reasons of legal ramifications -- don't want things discussed publicly and strongly recommend against it. Most legal agreements have "non-disclosure" components. "Back in the day", I was well-informed on "wherever whoever was" in "whatever legal morass" they were, at that moment, immersed if I happened to be talking to them/visiting with them. Alan Moore if I was visiting Alan, Steve Bissette if I was talking to Bissette. But only at "that moment in time". On the rare occasions where I'd be talking to them more frequently (Bissette when I was publishing TABOO, Alan when I was -- theoretically -- financing BIG NUMBERS), it was amazing how quickly the legal sands would shift. So I always took/take it as a given that if I didn't end up visiting them right at the end of a legal proceeding -- and I never did -- that it probably ended up several legal miles from where it was the last time I was looking at it.

Unknown said...

Kit - Supplementary. Neal Adams is probably the best informed LIVING person on the ins and outs of the Siegel and Shuster case with DC. Outside of the families. He's pretty careful about what he says -- no one wants to jeopardize anything even potentially by violating confidentiality -- but you definitely get the sense in what he DOES say that there was a LOT of back and forth, particularly at the tag end of the negotiations, which I think reinforces what I'm saying: unless you're there at the point where all of the t's have been crossed and the i's have been dotted all you know about is the "work in progress".

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster REPORTEDLY had a different agreement on SUPERBOY, which they created (?), developed at DC's direction (?), were thrown a bone on because they signed a bad agreement on SUPERMAN (?). There are a LOT of different versions of EVERY aspect of that case, and I think I've heard most of them.

Unknown said...


Damian - BELIEVE me, I have ZERO confidence that you will approve of, agree with or be remotely interested in what I have to say in THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. You might surprise me, though! :)

I've just finished my commentaries on "My Little Runaway" (RIP KIRBY 9/49 to 12/49) -- photocopied panels with typewritten commentary captions, which is how I'm doing them -- and it runs pretty close to 200 pages.

I'm one of Jules Feiffer's THE EXPLAINERS. I have this compulsion to, first of all, understand. To do that, I have to explain whatever it is that I'm studying to myself. Then I have to find a way to explain it to others. In this case, there's an obvious problem with 2016 attention span. Now that the first 186 pages have been printed out a bunch of times and I've proofread it that many times, I'm actually pretty impressed with my ability to NOT tax the reader's attention span and credulity.

That's going to be the nutcracker: keeping with that as I continue to interweave all the various threads of the narrative.

The more times I read the 186 pages, the easier that's going to be and the more effective a job I'm going to be able to do of it, I think. "I have to keep telling it LIKE THIS."

Unknown said...

I think we all know that when Damian -- and people who share his political perspective -- mention Jack Chick what they mean is "deluded comic artist and writer who believes in things I don't believe in -- who is, consequently, wrong by definition -- and writes and draws about them". That is, Crazy Person. Again, to me, just a complete blind spot when it comes to pluralism. "There is One Right Way To Think -- MY way -- and Jack Chick doesn't think that way." Ergo: Crazy Person.

That's all right, pluralism definitely includes -- HAS to! -- people who think there is only One Right Way To Think and that they know what it is.

Unknown said...

Travis - I would be VERY surprised if MARVEL reprinted the frontispiece to #8 in the next volume. Or if they do if they'll spell my name right this time. Good example of Comic Art Metaphysics: most times when I did work-made-for-hire they spelled my name wrong! Dave Simon was an inker on HOWARD and, as I recall, they sent the artwork back to him the first time.

In terms of Comic Art Metaphysics, I think I get cut a lot of slack because I've never kept anyone from using Cerebus creatively in their own work -- and made a point that that was (and is) the way I think. You reap what you sow.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

"I was -- theoretically -- financing BIG NUMBERS"
I didn't know that, but why "theoretically"?

Eddie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eddie said...

I’d like to thank everyone who’s expressed an interest or helped out in keeping SDOAR going (the Patrons, positive comments, financial support, Ted Admas and IDW, etc). Speaking only for myself, it could get pretty discouraging to work hard and be involved on something like this (especially an artistic work) with negative or critical comments about the work before it's even released (strange world. I wonder if other artists like Colleen Doran or Neil Gaiman have pre-feedback like this?) without the support. Of course, being a huge Dave Sim and Cerebus fan also helps ;)

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Dave @18:16 trots out his number-one rhetorical tactic: misrepresenting someone else's argument to make himself look good.

-- Damian

Travis Pelkie said...

Well, what did you mean by Dave as the "Jack Chick of the comics world", Damian? I think Dave is not being entirely unfair to your viewpoint here when you throw out that statement without really explaining it, as the implication certainly is that Dave is cuckoo.

To me, if Dave is the Jack Chick, it'd mean that I'd start finding Cerebus issues on the side of the road... (seriously. I have found Jack Chick comics on the side of the road. Twice.)

Eddie, I think SDOAR might be different in that there have been the bits of it that have come out (in ... embryonic? form) in glamourpuss, so it's different from any story Doran or Gaiman might mention they're working on beforehand. I'm not sure about the story part/Comic Book Metaphysics, but I look forward to the book because it's by Dave.

As to Howard, I'm not exactly sure why they're still reprinting the original series in trade (as in the solicit I posted above) -- I got a copy of the HTD HC Omni for a really nice price from my shop after our pal Rich Johnston mentioned that Marvel was letting a bunch of omnibi go out of print, and this is the third trade, which doesn't quite include all of the magazine issues. I'm going to assume that v4 will include the last couple magazine issues as well as the HTD appearances in the 90's, around the time of the Gerber stories that Tim posted. Also, it probably means he's going to be in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

As to the story Tim posted re: HTD and Gerber "stealing back" Howard, the impact of that "crossover" was blunted by the fact that the Savage Dragon portion of the book came out late and therefore wasn't out at the same time as the Marvel issue, so... not all that much of a "theft".

As I recall, the story came about because Howard was being used in a few books like Generation X and ... Ghost Rider? without Gerber being informed, I think. It wasn't that Gerber just suddenly wanted to "steal" Howard back.