Marvel is seeking to increase its presence in the bookstore market, as described here:
Marvel Enterprises, Inc....has entered into major licensing agreements with four of the world's leading publishing houses: DK Publishing, Harper Collins, Meredith Books and Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books as part of a strategy to increase the presence of its leading character franchises in various mass market book publishing formats. The agreements were announced today by Tim Rothwell, President of Worldwide Consumer Products and Bruno Maglione, President of Marvel International. Collectively, the new publishing licenses will bring the Marvel Universe to broad consumer audiences and demographics by establishing a significant presence in the largest mass-market book categories including adult novelizations, children's fiction, all-age non-fiction compendiums, as well as pre-school novelty formats and picture and sound storybooks.
Back when I was writing regularly for Comics and Games Retailer, this is the kind of announcement that would make some direct market comics retailers go ballistic. They would accuse Marvel (or DC or whatever publisher was making the announcement) of "not dancing with the guy who brung them"--of taking the market for high-end comics material that had been built by direct market retailers and cannibalizing it by giving better deals and products to places like Borders and Barnes & Noble, major book retailers who could offer margins and volumes that no direct market retailer could possibly even imagine. Add in that the major book retailers all deal in returnable product (and hence are never stuck with unsold merchandise) and the DM guys saw this as nothing less than traitorous.
Of course, somehow or other, the disastrous consequences for the direct market that were predicted from these deals never materialized...either because the publishers were quite willing to offer the same product to the DM on the DM's usual terms, or because the number of hard-core comics fans who are ready to abandon their regular sources for comics and rush to the bookstores instead is so small as to be non-existent.
Me? I figure anything that increases the number of potential comics readers can't be a bad idea.
A court has ruled that Stan Lee's contract with Marvel, a deal made when he dropped his exclusivity with Marvel, entitles him to 10% of Marvel's profits from certain movie-related merchandise:
A Manhattan federal judge ruled that Lee is entitled to a potential multimillion payday from Marvel Enterprises of profits generated by the company's television and movie productions - particularly the box-office smash ``Spider-Man,'' which earned more than $800 million worldwide, and its hugely successful sequel.
"It could be tens of millions of dollars," Howard Graff, attorney for Lee, said Wednesday. "That's no exaggeration."
The Monday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet found that Lee was entitled to a 10 percent share of the profits generated since November 1998 by Marvel productions involving the company's characters, including those created by the prolific cartoonist.
Ignoring for the moment that Lee isn't a "cartoonist" and that some versions of this story talk as if it had something to do with Lee's rights as a creator (or co-creator) of the characters--it doesn't--I still figure this is a good thing for anybody working in comics. Anytime a court says a company has to honor the terms of a contract, and interprets those terms in favor of a creator or employee, it bodes well for future disputes between the creative side and the publishing side.
There's been a lot of nonsense on the Internet along the lines of "What about Ditko?" Yeah--Steve Ditko morally deserves some share of the pot as a creator. (Actually, I think John Romita deserves even more of it, in terms of the movies--most of what we've seen bears a stronger resemblance to his version of Peter, Mary Jane and company than to Ditko's.) But this wasn't about creator rights under copyright law; it was about the terms of a specific employment contract.