‘Lost’ Dr. Seuss Book Revealed | News
We have a bit of news for you today that isn’t quite comics but is comics-adjacent in a lot of ways. First the news: You may have heard about the Kickstarter campaign that ran earlier this year to fund a new combined edition of several Dr. Seuss books that have crossed over into the public domain. The new book is called The Zaks and Other Lost Stories, and ComicMix will publish it later this year. Only two of the titles were revealed during the Kickstarter, and we are the first to bring you the news of the third title: Did I Ever Tell You? We have a few pages to give you a sense of what it is like.
And we also have an interview with publisher Glenn Hauman, but first, a bit of backstory: Several years ago, Haumann had plans to publish a parody, Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go, a mashup of the Dr. Seuss book with a similar name and Star Trek tropes. Dr. Seuss Enterprises sued, and after several rounds in court, the two parties settled; as part of the settlement, the book was canceled.
While this was all going on, Haumann, who is a bit of a mad genius, discovered that some of Seuss’s works had passed into the public domain. Hence the Kickstarter, which it’s worth looking at because Glenn wrote the campaign in anapestic tetrameter, the same meter used by Seuss (and, it must be stressed, many other writers).
And that is how he did our interview as well!
OK, first of all, Glenn, I believe you have a new title to announce?
Coming out in July, we deliver “The Zaks
And Other Lost Stories,” which we hope attracts
fans of Theodore Geisel, who we must presume
is much better known under his nom de plume
as the great “Dr. Seuss”! Everybody knows him,
even if only by his pseudonym.
How did you find out that these works were in the public domain?
It came out in a lawsuit that the Seuss estate
doesn’t have all-encompassing rights that they state
over all of his output. Some works have since lapsed
into public domain, copyright has elapsed,
while others are still owned by different parties.
So (not to pretend like we’re some sort of smarties)
we tracked down who owned what and now we can print
those stories ourselves— and, we hope, make a mint.
What are they about?
I believe we can state and clearly represent
“Around 30 lines each.” Is that not what you meant?
Are these works that a lot of people would know, or are they kind of obscure? Like, on a scale of 1 to 10, where Green Eggs and Ham is a 10, where would they fall?
Well, we must suppose it’s not far of a reach
to assume that your readers have heard of a Sneetch.
In fact, there are two sorts of Sneetches you’ll sight:
those in Public Domain and those with copyright.
The Sneetches with copyright have a small ©,
the Public Domain ones are copyright free.
The other Seuss stories, not at all forbidden,
have had certain parties try to keep the tales hidden.
Will these be sold in comic shops? Bookstores? Just to Kickstarter backers?
There’ll be wide distribution, although (this part grates)
we won’t be releasing outside of the States.
The public domain Dr. Seuss tales we’re using
are PD only here and that’s why we’re refusing
to publish these stories outside of the U.S.—
we don’t want to let certain somebodies sue us.
Will these books be edited in any way?
We suppose that depends on what you mean by “edit,”
we wouldn’t say that—but then, you said it.
We cleaned up the artwork for printing (of course,
they won’t let us touch the original source).
What sort of front or back matter will there be?
We’ll have epilogues on why this book was needed
and giving our side of the case that was pleaded.
There also will be one which could be confusing,
because it discusses some parties refusing
to state quite clearly who owns certain art—
and so we may have to tip over a cart.
You recently lost a lengthy court case over a book that was not by Dr. Seuss but was deemed overly similar to his work by the Dr. Seuss copyright holders. Why did you decide to do a Dr. Seuss book now?
After the suit, there were large legal bills
for daring to battle on fair use’s hills.
As you might imagine, this suit was expensive
to make our defense and to be comprehensive.
And so we could pay off our hard-working lawyers,
we thought up a plan as good as Tom Sawyer’s.
We do have to admit that we’re somewhat amused
that using these works while the Seuss heirs refused
to consider fair use, instead overturning
our previous win—well, now they are learning
not all consequences are safely foretold,
and damage to others comes back manyfold.
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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