Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Original ElfQuest WaveDancers on eBay

For the fans who have sent us emails asking where they can obtain out-of-print issues of the original ElfQuest: WaveDancers, here's your answer. Jozef just stumbled across the entire series on eBay. Here are the links: "Search for the True Crown" Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3, Issue 4, Issue 5 and Issue 6. Looks like you won't even have to bid for them. The 'Buy It Now' price is excellent.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Little Mermaid at the Sydney Opera House

Multi-award winning Australian actress Deborah Mailman (she of the most beautiful smile!) will narrate Hans Christian Andersen's story The Little Mermaid at the Sydney Opera House in May. She will be backed by a chamber orchestra and Israel's Silver-Garburg Piano Duo (pictured) who will perform the orchestral score by composer Lior Navok. The Little Mermaid is the tale of a mermaid who falls in love with a prince. With the help of a sea-witch turns herself into a human so she can be with him, only to be betrayed when he unwittingly falls in love with somebody else. This is a beautiful story of love, tragedy and sacrifice. Recommended for ages 4+.

Date: Saturday 2 to Sunday 3 May 2009; Monday 4 May 2009 (House: Educational)
Time: 10am
Duration: 40 minutes
Venue: The Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Australia
Cost: $26 (standard); $15 (school groups)
Bookings: Phone +61 2 9250 777; Email – bookings@sydneyoperahouse.com

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Creative Commons Licences 1

We're just working on the latest edition of Comics Biz, the Australian Society of Authors Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio ezine and we're including a section on Creative Commons (CC) Licences. From our understanding, these are licensing agreements that allow creators to waive certain copyright rights (that is, they “reserve ‘some’ rights” rather than “ reserve ‘all’ rights”). Essentially, CC Licences allow people to use your work in certain ways without payment to you. They can apply to books, comics, music, plays, films, artwork, photos, articles and blog and website content.

We actually didn't know terribly much about CC Licences but after doing some initial research and recognising that we're in an age where copyright is being challenged by the notion of "copyleft", we thought we should also educate our readers in the process. So we'll leave you some research bread crumbs along our way – we're not experts, just students and reporters. We'll bring you some more information soon on the four types of permissions used in CC Licences, as well as the six variations of licences. In the meantime here's a starter video for you.

Australian Political Correctness Gone Troppo & Superheroes Are Targeted!

Caught this story on A Current Affair last week and was surprised to see that comic book superheroes (Spiderman, Batman and Superman) make the grade! (They appear half way through the clip.) Looks like we're going a trifle overboard. Oh, and just so you know, I LOVE it when guys open doors for me! 

Political Correctness Gone Mad
Political Correctness Gone Mad

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Help Us Choose Our Elf~Fin Titles: VOTE NOW! [Updated 19/4/09]

A few months ago we asked readers to vote for their favourite Elf~Fin™ #1 cover which Jozef is currently in the process of painting. Now, as we nudge closer to publication, we're curious to have your opinion on another aspect of the work. 

When we began developing the Elf~Fin™ story a number of years ago, we actually first blocked out what is now to be the second story in the trilogy – that is, the tale of Illora – Hyfus and Tilaweed's daughter (this is not a spoiler, fans have known about her existence for years but in another context). That "fish out of water" story is pretty much mapped out and has some real hi-jinx in it.

However, as we got talking, as well as listening to our readers, we changed our minds. Tilaweed and Hyfus who have appeared in print before as supporting characters have always been fan favourites as well as our personal favourites (Jozef has always gravitated towards Tilaweed and I towards Hyfus) so we decided to bring them to the forefront as lead characters. Secondly, we wanted to do a mermaid story that – unlike many other mermaid stories (The Little Mermaid included) – took place ENTIRELY underwater. The result was that we decided to switch things around and place Hyfus and Tilaweed into the limelight, which is why the first story is essentially what we would describe as "an underwater love story".

So here's the rub ... our working title for Book 1 has up to now been Hyfus & Tilaweed. Romance stories (no matter what slant they take – tragic, epic, black comedy etc ), often favour titles named after the major characters who find love (eg. Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Harold and Maude, Benny and Joon, Oscar and Lucinda). However, this comic work also sits in the fantasy genre – our characters are elves living on a planet called Elf~Threaal. So in the interim we came up with another set of titles for the trilogy that may be befitting the work if you look at it from the perspective of the fantasy genre itself. We're curious from the point of view of creators, but we're also curious from the point of view of market researchers.

So we want to ask you ... which cluster of titles resonates with you more and (pretending that you didn't know us or our history or the history of this work), which would be more likely to solidify your buying decision? (Please note that even though we know what happens in Book 3, we don't want to flag the story via either title at this moment).

Character name-based titles:
Book 1: Hyfus and Tilaweed
Book 2: Illora
Book 3: TBA

Story/plot point-based titles:
Book 1: The Shuddering
Book 2: The Wells of Shekimminon
Book 3:  TBA

Keep in mind that at this point of time they are ALL working titles. We'll be making our final decision with the publisher but really want to bring your preferences into the discussion.

HELP US by voting (once only please) in the poll on this blog. The closing date will be Sunday 17 May 2009 at 11:59pm. 

UPDATE (19/4/09):  Your early feedback reveals that the issue of titles is not as clear cut as we thought. Some readers prefer a mix of titles for different reasons. We're REALLY interested in your opinions and instincts, so it'll be really useful if you would provide us with additional information in the commentary section of this blog post. Thanks!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Sexy Men of Supanova

One good reason to have dinner on Supanova Saturday. Hail yea Aussie comics creators and world class talent! (From left to right, top to bottom: David Yardin, Stewart McKenny, Jozef Szekeres, Wayne Nichols, Chris Sequeira, W Chew Chan, Jon Sommariva and Marcelo Baez.) Oh and by the way, the women who attended were just as gorgeous!

Supanova Wrap Up

Jozef and I had a fabulous time up at Brisbane Supanova. I attended in my official capacity as the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Comics/Graphic Novels Portfolio Holder, and Jozef flew himself up as a freelancer but also doubled-up on his portfolio holder role (the ASA usually sponsors one of us per event and he had been flown to Melbourne the weekend before). The ASA's "Legal Self Defence for Comics Creators" panel session went well. Dr Jeremy Fisher, the ASA Executive Director, took all the cos-play in his stride with great humour (you must remember he usually attends literary festivals not popular culture expos!) and did a great Q & A with the Supanova MC David Quinn – they covered creative commons licences, non-disclosure agreements, copyright and lots of other issues. 

We were also thrilled to meet the soft-spoken and exceptionally talented Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, who did a portfolio review for Jozef and spoke to us for a good 15 minutes before being whisked away by a minder. A masterclass with Australians Colin Wilson and Tom Taylor who recently published The Example through Gestalt Publishing was also on the agenda. They're working on a Star Wars title as well which should be out in July. Onya, guys!

Then on the Saturday afternoon we got to meet Todd McFarlane (see pics 1 & 2) who gave Jozef some thumbs-up feedback on Elf~Fin, some excellent advice on the art of lettering and did a portfolio review for Jozef. He was a fun guy and extremely generous with his time towards us and many other smitten fans (emerging and professional comics creators included). 

Jozef also sat in on an Amber Benson (Tara from Buffy series – see pic 3) session and even asked her a question wrapped up in the lyrics and a musical serenade from the "Once More With Feeling" musical episode the cast did in the sixth season. Tara was both delighted and delightful.

Later on the Saturday evening we had dinner at the Ghengis Khan (a mongolian buffet) with a whole bunch of Aussie comics creators and their partners, which was great fun. We all FaceBooked each other madly after the event. 

I left on Sunday at lunchtime to catch my plane back to Sydney but Jozef lingered in Brisbane for a few more days. We're now armed with lots of reading material some of which we've read – Christopher Sequeira, Dave Elsey and Phil Cornell's original Sherlock Holmes story The Claws of the Chimera is one of the stand outs!

More on the Elf~Fin (OWD) Dolls

We've been informed there are five groups of Elf~Fin (Old WaveDancers) dolls, which highlight some of the best works from the individual artists who have adapted them from the original WaveDancers designs. Here are some links:

Enemies" (Sydor & Winnowill–the latter character is copyright and trademark to Warp Graphics) by Embala & Jeedai
Lovers Circle" (Barmek & Raenafel) by elfeneyes, (Jormak & Sleia) by Embala
Loving Family" [pictured here] (Tilaweed, Illora & Hyfus) by Jeedai
Minis" (group) by Kat Combs
Raenafel's Protectors" Kirith by Jeedai, Brom(s) collab between elfeneyes & Jeedai.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When is a Copyright Holder Not a Copyright Holder?

When they blatantly steal a piece of artwork by putting their name, signature and/or copyright information on it!

I (Jozef) say "NO" to signature tags, tubes, letterhead and stationery, slight animation, frames, backgrounds, advertisements, menus etc. Almost once a week I get a request via DeviantArt from another DeviantArt member who seeks permission to use my artwork for the above uses. In each case I reply thanking them for their interest, but at this time, I'm not giving permission to use my art in this way. I also thank them for their respect and understanding of me and my work.

I put my artwork on display to showcase it, to present my ever growing body of (art) work, and my declaration of copyright ownership to that work. I do not put my art on display for it to be arbitrarily used by other parties with little or no policing, or more alarmingly... used without my permission.

Recently a DeviantArt artist decided to use my artwork as a signature tag for herself. This was done without my permission or knowledge. It was only because of the vigilance of another DeviantArt artist who alerted me of this usage that I found out about it. In response, I wrote to the offending DeviantArt artist, asking them to remove it immediately from their DA gallery and the Gaia Online RP.

The artist's response was:
Um..Ok. I will remove it. Someone told me it was yours and I was going to tell and ask you but didn't get the chance because your dA page wouldn't load of my computer. But to tell you the true [sic] I don't see why I have to remove it from the rp (that isn't even mine) when I join your pic on PHOTOBUCKET therefore it is open for the public to use and it's not like I'm passing it for my own, please understand that."

Well there are many things wrong with this response. Firstly, you do need to contact me after the fact to get permission to use my artwork. If you do not have my permission before usage, assume you DO NOT HAVE IT. Contact me before you use it... and tell me what context you intend to use it. I can then make a decision as to whether I give permission or not. It is MY artwork, so I get to decide.

Secondly, there is more then one way to find me on the Internet. If you need to contact me, telling me a page won't load is not an excuse.

Thirdly, the pic placement on Photobucket is not approved, nor linked to its original owner, and therefore also a copyright infringement. It looks like there could be a whole lot of stolen or appropriated artwork on Photobucket. I don't see how one can assume that artwork collected in Photobucket is therefore copyright free and in public domain in any way. I'd advise against using artwork where you don't know the origin.

Fourthly, by posting on an original art gallery site like DeviantArt, you are presenting that the work is yours in copyright, or you have obtained or purchased copyright ownership of the image. And by putting your name (and only your name) to the image within the image, you are publicly claiming copyright to the work.

I apologise to Black Mermaid™ readers for a somewhat aggressive tone and stance on this, but really... I've had enough of the excuses. Don't use what isn't yours to use unless it's for promotional purposes of our products, blog or website.

And in case you're wondering, the Black Mermaid™ image above is the one that was used. The first one is how she appears on the "About BMP" page on our website, and the second one is as she appears on the offending artist (who we actually suspect could in fact be a teenager because her DeviantArt website has a collection of naive beginning art interlaced with professional pieces that appear to be so different in style and substance that they look as if they are the work of multiple artists). You may note that the second piece has a trident instead of what we call a bident. Don't let this amendment fool you – it is also ours. You see, when Bruce Love was part of the Black Mermaid Productions™ partnership, each of us was symbolically represented in the original image as one of the prongs of the trident. When Bruce left in 2003 and we revised our website from the BMP (Classic) to the BMP (New Wave) version, Jozef changed the trident to a bident. Both images were designed by Jozef and both of them are very much part of the Black Mermaid Productions™ website history.

On another note, we would like to thank all readers and artists who alert us to these copyright breaches. We really appreciate it.

And if you are interested in reading further about this case, Colleen Doran covers it from another angle (and with our original email responses to the copyright infringer) on her A Distant Soil blog from another angle in her Black Mermaid Swiped blog post. 

Elf~Fin Avatar Fan Art

As you all know we've been busy preparing the first issue of Elf-Fin: Hyfus & Tilaweed for publication, which uses some of the supporting characters (namely the eponymous heroes Hyfus and Tilaweed) who first appeared in ElfQuest: WaveDancers (known as the original WaveDancers – OWD). It's great to see that so many years after their original publication that an online group is still actively interested in these characters today.

I (Jozef) have always enjoyed viewing fan art of characters I've created/designed (provided that the new art pieces are correctly copyright attributed to either Black Mermaid Productions™ or to myself as the original artist), so when I discovered the new Icon Dolls of the OWD, I was thrilled and quite chuffed.

The OWD Dolls really capture the essence of each characters design so clearly and correctly you instantly know who each character is. It's also fun seeing the various takes on the one character, as there are several artists that have banded together to explore our OWD characters in this way.

Once Elf~Fin is released, the characters that cross over from the OWD will have an entirely new base identity in a new world with a new story and lots of new characters to surround them, so it'll be great to see them in that light. Until then, seeing the OWD character honored with such loving and respectful interest is heartening and a great motivator to Julie and myself to bring the characters to publication again (in Elf-Fin) for you all to enjoy.

Here is the direct link to the collage of the OWD Dolls.
The artists involved have posted their logos by their works. The names and logos are together as follows (Nightsea and Embala are unsigned):
"elfeneyes" = A.S.
"Jeedai" = CMT
"Kat Combs" = LJ

We're BAAAACK! (to be said in Heather O'Rourke's Poltergeist voice)

This has been the longest period we've been away from our blog but we'll be making up for lost time in the next few days. Jozef still has the whooping cough and will probably be coughing for another two months until the infection runs its course. The doctor told him it hangs around for about three months, but that could be a negative suggestion. If it departs his body sooner it will be a good thing. He's finishing off his Business Activity Statement (BAS) for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which most working Australians have to pay every three months (he has a bit of catching up to do) and then he's on to painting the Hyfus with dolphins and sharks cover. The last three weeks have been fractured for me too – two interstate trips, Easter, guests, more feral kittens to catch and more feral females to trap, spay and return to their territory. A good thing is that we are in a non-rating TV period at the moment which coincides with school holidays, so there is nothing on television but repeats (except for Lost, 24 and Dexter which are maintaining continuity). I have FINALLY managed to finish watching the first season of the teenage mermaid story H20 which Jozef lent me a number of months ago, as well as catching up on old Babylon 5 episodes I haven't seen.  I also finished about three hours of ironing that I had accumulated so way to go, Julie! Probably got about a day's work left on BMP tax and then everything's back to its normal rhythm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More 3D Tattoos

We honour you oh great artist and tattoo master whomever you are (still can't get onto the website mentioned in the corner of each pic. These are brilliant!

3D Tattoos

Check out these fabulous 3D tattoos. I think it would hurt Spiderman to pull off his skin like that, although the Terminator wouldn't necessarily care. Don't know who the tattoo artist is, as we can't seem to link across to the samtah.biz website at this moment – we keep getting an error message. But the designs are mighty cool and obviously a new tattoo trend. Congratulations on some stellar and intricate work.

Art and Story; Music and Lyrics

When we first got into comics an old comics pro once told us that "people buy comics for the art but stay for the story". Well I just watched the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics (starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, and written and directed by Marc Lawrence) that had a similar observation albeit to songs. Drew's character Sophie explains:
"A melody is like seeing someone for the first time – the physical attraction – sex ... but then as you get to know the person, that's the lyrics, their story, who they are underneath. It's the combination of the two that makes it magic."
I like this analogy and I think it's also quite appropriate for comics. It's the fusion of both images and words that creates the magic. Any thoughts?