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Eric: Also, there's a green evil chick. That's always a good sign. *pause* Yes, my last essay was on sexism. Why do you ask?

Cheshire Crossing

(From Cheshire Crossing! Click on the thumbnail to be transported to a wondrous world of full sized available issue!)

I like Andy Weir.

I always have. I got sucked into Casey and Andy relatively early on, and I was sad to hear it was ending. And so I was... intrigued... at the thought of Weir working on a book length project. Especially one with as many differences as Cheshire Crossing has to Casey and Andy.

So I read it. About five times.

It took me about halfway through the first issue the first time for it to click for me. The art was just different enough from Casey and Andy (and the execution of humor was significantly different enough) for my brain to send up lots of questions. For one thing, in one way it's played very straight. And yet, the artwork is more stylized than Casey and Andy -- the figures are almost doll-like. Wendy's hair, for example, is almost daggerlike. And yet, the level of expressiveness is impressive.

And... well, come on. It stars Wendy Darling, Alice Liddel and Dorothy Gale. What's not to love about that?

It's almost sad, in a way. Weir has clearly been working on this for quite some time, and yet it came around at about the same time that the hype for the long gestating Lost Girls project by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, which leads to inevitable comparisons. Of course, so far Cheshire Crossing doesn't have any explicit sex. Weir maintains Lost Girls is just Cheshire Crossing slashfic, since Cheshire Crossing came first. The premise is a fun one, though. Our three girls have spent years paying the price for their honesty in describing their adventures, going from one sanitarium to another. (Alice has been given so much opium she's completely tolerant to its effects, for example, and Dorothy has had apparently significant electroshock therapy.) They are finally all brought to Cheshire Crossing to...

Well, you can read it for yourselves.

There's one inclusion I wonder about. A "Miss Poppins" who is practically perfect is on staff. Which thematically works, since we know Mary Poppins was apparently near eternal, in her own way. But in another it surprises me -- unlike Alice, Dorothy and Wendy, Miss Poppins is solidly under copyright (and, thanks to the good people at Disney, trademark), which would limit Weir's later options with the story. But I enjoy his interpretation of Miss Poppins too much to worry about potential legal issues.

Really, I enjoy the whole thing too much to worry about much of anything. It's not really like anything out there, whether Weir's older stuff... or anything else. It has a few twists of Weirian humor here and there, but more of a sense of drama, and like I said, the art is idiosyncratic in (to my mind) a good way.

I just hope that the next issue comes out sometime soon.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 14, 2006 8:30 AM

Comments

Comment from: Kneefers [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 10:23 AM

Straight up, man. RIP Casey and Andy, long live Cheshire Crossing.
...really wish it updated more often, though. Waiting a month for each whole issue makes me antsy. Oh, well. Suppose it's better for the story.
But still makes me antsy.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 1:47 PM

If I recall correctly, Mary Poppins, the movie, was based on a series of Britsh Children's Tales called, naturally Mary Poppins. And while Disney may have certainly trademarked Mary Poppins, it's just the movie version, from what I can tell from the copyrighting jargon. And the book series isn't copryrighted since it was published in the same time as OZ is.

Which shows, once again, how Disney is the master of all things already published.

I'd hate to find out what happened to Wendy's brothers...

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 1:58 PM

Mary Poppins, by Mary Shephard, was written and published in 1934 and is still under copyright. Ms. Shephard continued publishing sequels all the way up to 1988, for the record.

Disney almost certainly retains significant trademark, merchandising and licensing rights, especially given that a West End musical adaption has been running for a couple of years and is about to open on Broadway.

L. Frank Baum's Oz books, on the other hand, were published from 1900 through 1920 and are all firmly in the public domain. As is Alice in Wonderland. In 99% of the free world, Peter Pan is also in the public domain. However, a strange perpetual copyright on the original stage play was given to a childrens' hospital in England, and in recent years they've tried to assert more general copyright over the books and characters, at least in the United Kingdom. It will be interesting to see if they sue over Lost Girls, and whether or not they will win, as a result.

Comment from: Connor Moran [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 2:00 PM

I'm not sure where the claim that Cheshire Crossing predates Lost Girls comes from. The first chapter of Lost Girls was published in 1991. It is only the collected volume that hasn't come out yet. Admittedly, most of the collected volume wasn't previously published, but certainly enough of the story is out to explain the basic premise.

On another copyright note, there is still a copyright held on Peter Pan as well, which may cause some difficulties for Lost Girls. Alan Moore's position on that, though, is that the copyright doesn't extend to individual characters. That's a pretty serious copyright grey area, so I wouldn't hazard a guess as to who would be right in that situation. Especially since it would be fought out in the UK and not the US.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 2:07 PM

Huh. I stand corrected. 1998? That recent? Well, I respect that Disney has never tried to make a Mary Poppins sequel. (Granted, it was a semi-live-action movie. Also, that didn't stop them from creating, Return to Neverland. Actually saw Return to OZ. I wish I could have that experience mindwiped.)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 2:13 PM

I'm not sure where the claim that Cheshire Crossing predates Lost Girls comes from.

I think it falls under "dude, it's a joke." ;)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 2:16 PM

On another copyright note, there is still a copyright held on Peter Pan as well[....]

Actually, that exemption is only in force in the United Kingdom, and even there it's shaky, as it contravenes the Berne Convention which the United Kingdom is a signatory to.

No one cared to try and fight it before now, because it was designed to bring money to a children's hospital and said hospital was very cool about how they went about receiving it. However, with high profile cases and dubious rights being asserted, it's almost certainly significantly challengeable in British court.

For Andy Weir, an American electronically publishing in America on (I assume) an American server? Yeah, they can claim anything they like about Peter Pan.

Comment from: Abby L. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 3:24 PM

Clicked it, read it, signed up for the mailing list. Thank you, Mr. Burns!

Comment from: Brian Smith [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 5:36 PM

I'm not sure how many people have picked up on this, but join me (won't you?) in this flashback to the "Casey and Andy" strip on Oct. 17, 2005, that followed a run of "Kim Possible" jokes. Read the first part of the author's note below the strip, and it's like you can hear some of the "Cheshire Crossing" tumblers falling into place!

Comment from: Dave Menendez [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 5:37 PM

Mr Burns:

L. Frank Baum's Oz books, on the other hand, were published from 1900 through 1920 and are all firmly in the public domain.

Just to be picky, I'll note that the character in Cheshire Crossing is the movie Dorothy, not the book Dorothy. The latter was blonde and wore silver slippers.

I think the wicked witch was only green in the movie as well, but I could be wrong.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 6:18 PM

Just to be picky, I'll note that the character in Cheshire Crossing is the movie Dorothy, not the book Dorothy. The latter was blonde and wore silver slippers.

I'm mostly giving the hairstyles a bye. I mean, dude. He has a raven haired Alice Liddel. ;)

I wonder if the movie's still under copyright or not. Hm. Well, unless the Garland estate comes after him (which I guess would mean Liza Minnelli -- a scary thought at the best of times)....

Comment from: Ford Dent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 6:52 PM

Holy crap.

This comic's fantastic. Alice is quite the precocious youth.

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 7:02 PM

Dangit. My first thought was that I'd somehow missed the e-mail telling me the new episode was out.

Oh, well, re-reading the first, while not quite so thrilling, was still fun.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 9:29 PM

Speaking of well known fictional characters in comics, I saw in a local comic store TokyoPop's versions of The Hardy Bodys and Nancy Drew mystery series. They're less like mysteries and more like Japanese romance stories with a twinge of mystery. (Particularly Nancy Drew.) I didn't like it. And the artwork isn't very good. Kind of looks like something off of the Winks Club show. (Apparently, Winks is an Italian thing.)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 10:16 PM

Doctor Rutherford, meanwhile, is a real person. Famous physicist who, ironically, got his Nobel in Chemistry. Kinda like the Elvis of science (Elvis never got a Grammy for rock, only for gospel and country).

Comment from: Bequita [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 10:47 PM

Well, I'd point out that both Dorthy and Ozma suffered hair color changes within the first 3 books. Dorothy started out with longish brunette hair and Ozma started out as a blond, but by the cover of book 3 they'd switched to Ozma with long black hair and Dorothy with a very 20's short blonde 'do.

Granted, I'm basing part of this off the book covers, and I don't think Dorothy's hair color was ever mentioned, but Ozma went through a definate and abrupt change.

...Man, now I have to go reread all those books.

Comment from: Andy Weir [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 10:54 PM

Glad you folks liked it. Especially Eric.

The #1 complaint I get is the time between updates. Just so everyone knows, I periodically update my progress page here:

http://www.cheshirecrossing.net/progress.html
(Click the link for uh... progressy progressness!)

As for copyrights: Alice is fully in the public domain. Dorothy is in the public domain but the ruby slippers are an addition by MGM and owned by them. Wendy is public domain everywhere but the UK. Mary Poppins is fully under copyright.

But to be honest, I don't care. Cheshire Crossing is a work of fanfiction. I can pretty much do whatever I want, because I'm not making any money off it. The worst they could possibly do is tell me to remove it from my site. And that would be bizarrely unusual. Just LOOK at all the fanfiction and fan-art out there that isn't litigated against!

-ATW

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 11:24 PM

According to my passive, anecdotal research, franchise owners issue cease-and-desist letters to websites which appropriate their own actual creative property (i.e., publicity stills, transcripts of screen fictions), but not which publish original if derivative works (fanfiction, cartoons). And Powerpuff Girls Doujonshi is a past WCCA winner.

More power to you, Andy. I thought I believed in fanfiction the way you do, but if I did there'd never have been Arthur, King of Time and Space.

Besides, I love crossovers.

Comment from: Aerin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 5:26 AM

This comic smacks of No Rest for the Wicked in all the right ways. It's dealing strictly with literature rather than fairy tales, but it's still the same delicious concept.

As far as the slippers go, I rather like Wicked's way of dealing with it (the Broadway version, not the book). They start out silver, but a spell turns them red.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 11:18 AM

You know, I can't help but reflect back on this comic:

http://www.galactanet.com/comic/370.htm

Comment from: Darrin_Bright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 1:26 PM

> Cheshire Crossing is a work of fanfiction. I
> can pretty much do whatever I want, because
> I'm not making any money off it.

That's not entirely correct. Not charging money doesn't mean you can't be sued for using someone else's IP. While you may be free of any obvious copyright infringements on Alice, Wendy, and Dorothy, there are some IP violations that you could be liable for.

Because you're working in a visual medium, Disney or MGM could go after you claiming your work is "derivative" of theirs (particularly if they published any comic books based on the movies, which would involve an active U.S. Copyright... and remember, Disney copyrights never expire, they keep getting extended by Congress). That might be legally actionable via copyright infringement, but given that the original works are mostly in the public domain, it would be incredibly difficult to win such a case... However, a feisty legal department could still give you hell, forcing you to waste money on legal advice. You may get a C&D, but it's unlikely to go further than that.

The real danger you want to look out for is "trademark dilution", where you creating a similar product (such as character designs with a similar hairstyle, hair color, or Dorothy's blue dress) might create confusion among consumers who might assume your creation is associated with, licensed, or endorsed by Disney/MGM. Disney/MGM could argue that their ability to market Alice/Wendy/Dorothy products, or their ability to create new comics- or webcomics-based products based on those characters, is being damaged or diminished. They have a legal right to recoup those damages via litigation. Not making any money does not prevent you from being sued over this.

Fortunately, after the Victoria's Secret case (Moseley v. Victor's Secret), Disney/MGM would have to prove they had suffered actual monetary damages or a diminuation of value in order to recover those damages in court. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they can't mount a lengthy and costly legal battle in the first place.

Most companies are smart enough not to go after fanfiction (although Paramount occasionally sinks to such depths of stupidity) because it's usually harmless and there hasn't been a lot of evidence to suggest it can hurt a trademark or brand's value. However, companies *do* have to actively protect their trademarks (unlike copyrights, which can't be diluted), otherwise suffer the fate of "aspirin" and "kleenex" working their way into public domain. If fanfiction were to get popular enough that it started competing in the same markets as established trademarks, then you might see some crackdowns.

In any case, you're welcome to continue creating whatever you like, but please, for the love of gawd, please don't assume that "not charging = not liable".

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and none of this should be considered legal advice.

Comment from: Andy Weir [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 16, 2006 12:02 AM

Yes, but in practice, no free fanfic that I've ever heard of has run in to that kind of trouble. I'd rather take the 0.000001% risk than give up on telling what I think is a good story.

-ATW

Comment from: Darrin_Bright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 16, 2006 11:37 AM

Like I said, Paramount occasionally stoops to such stupidity: http://www.chillingeffects.org/fanfic/notice.cgi?NoticeID=7

One of the more infamous incidents is Larry Niven sending a "cease and desist" letter to Elf Sternberg over the erotic fanfic "The Only Fair Game". There was no legal action beyond that, but Niven still gets needled about it occasionally.

More recently, Sony Online Entertainment banned Mystere and other players on Everquest for posting Everquest fanfic that they considered in violation of their End-User Agreement.

So, yes, it's pretty much outside the realm of possibility that you'd ever get sued for damages over fanfic, but it's important to note that there are many other ways a prickly legal department can make your life hell. The most common tactic is to demand your ISP to remove the offending material, since most ISPs don't have the nerve to ignore a nasty-looking "cease and decist" letter.

Oh, and one last thing... "fanfic is probably safe" never, ever, EVER applies to Harlan Ellison's IP. That little man's dedication to copyright litigation makes a rabid weasel enema look downright comforting, not to mention his success in some of the murkier areas of copyright protection are jaw-dropping.

Comment from: CaseyG [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 7:59 PM

Andy and I disagree about many, many things, and one of them is the likelihood that he will receive a cease and desist from Disney.

If he does, I have every confidence that he will cave in like a paper battleship.

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