Our reporting on the Mr. Scootles controversy the other day drew some response from former Open Book publisher Mike Gagnon who sent us the following open letter. We’re still recuperating and away from home, so we’ll refrain from interpretation at this point, but in the interests of fairness, here’s his letter:
Recently several comic news sites, most notably Newsarama.com have run articles that feature claims from indie comic creator Howard Noel that former Open Book Press owner Mike Gagnon has infringed upon the copyright of his series Mr. Scootles. Mr. Gagnon would like the comic community to know that there may not be as much to these claims as it first appears.
I am deeply saddened by the claims being made by Mr. Noeldechen regarding my business relationship with him, in particular an article posted on Newsama.com on January 2nd of 2007. The article was posted by site owner Matt Brady and written by Ryan McLelland, and contains several false statements regarding copyright infringement of the character and sales of the series occurring after Mr. Noel and I ceased to do business.
At no time have I or anyone currently or formerly involved with Open Book Press ever been involved in any type of copyright infringement action or treated Mr. Noel unprofessionally. On several occasions I have explained to Mr. Noel that stock sold by Amazon was ordered and fulfilled prior to the termination of our contract, and that issues 2 and 3 of Mr. Scootles were never printed, let alone sold by any means. The title information listed at book sales sites is a result of advanced solicitation to retailers and distributors. Books begin soliciting a minimum of six months prior to actual retail release, and book listings for issue 2 and 3 had already been sent out prior to the termination of our deal.
Claims also made that Mr. Noel has not received sales records, comp. copies, royalty statements, etc. are blatantly false. This information was sent to Mr. Noel via e-mail on or about the 16 th of November 2006, nearly a month before Mr. McLelland’s article claims that he had still not received anything. The information was also sent via mail in a package along with any and all material in my possession concerning Mr. Scootles at the time. Printed copies of #1, original submissions, as well as a copy of the rejection notice from Diamond listing that the title was rejected due to the quality of artwork, not unprofessional format, sizing, printing, or approach as Mr. Noel has claimed.
This information has been sent to Mr. Noel on several occasions, and I find it strange that none of these e-mails were able to find their way into Mr. McLelland’s article. I cannot comment on if this is due to Mr. McLelland overlooking them, or perhaps selectively having never been supplied to him by Mr. Noel.
Throughout our relationship and this dispute I have done all in my power to maintain a level headed and professional communication with Mr. Noel and been met with hostility.
The most disappointing part about this is that Mr. Scootles is a good series and that it should be getting media attention through positive creative success, not a public smear campaign based on false accusations.
I also find the timing to be strangely co-incidental with Mr. Noel’s efforts to promote the upcoming release of the final issue of the series, and the movement of my career from publishing to freelance writing, which includes several new columns being written by myself on comic news websites.
In support of my defense and in response to the excerpts attributed to the new owners of Open Book Press in Mr. McLelland’s article Dan Frey, one of two new co-owners of Open Book Press, has said “Most of what Noel comments on is inaccurate and where he is accurate he misunderstood what really was going on… We think he’s doing this to generate sales for his book.”
David Galloway, account rep at BookSurge, the only printer ever used during my time as owner of Open Book Press has stated in regard to where the Mr. Scootles books are being supplied to Amazon from “The listing is coming from 2 sources. The first is the advantage account opened by the publisher in Jan 2006. The second source is B&T. Books 2&3 were closed 12/2006. The third is currently in process of being close 12/29/2006. Should go away in a couple of days. None of the inventory is being filled by BookSurge.” This means that if no inventory is being filled by BookSurge than no books are being printed. The existing copies of issue #1 that are out there were from very small orders that were shipped prior to the termination of Mr. Noel’s contract. Documentation supporting this will also be provided online.
In response to the general attacks on me personally, Mike Phillips, owner of comics site Sequart.com, a client of mine, has said: “Don’t worry about that, Mike. I’ll judge your relationship with Sequart.com based on your dealings with Sequart.com…You’ve been nothing but helpful to my company, so that’s how I’m basing our relationship.”
In any event I have no regrets. The entire time I worked as a publisher I did my best to help and foster new and unknown creators. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, the fact is that there are more failures than successes in comics, but not once have I ever done anything to harm, undermine, or unjustly profit off of any creator I have worked with.
As I move into writing I have continued to keep this goal alive by using one of my new columns as a venue to showcase unknown talent. I continue to wish Mr. Noel nothing but success with Mr. Scootles, and had he been able to maintain a professional rapport with me, despite our differences in opinion,
I would have been happy to feature Mr. Scootles in a segment.
Sometimes when something isn’t a booming success a creator will need to take it out on someone else instead of facing the reality, but I cannot allow myself to be publicly subjected to false accusations.
I have promised in my responses in online chat rooms to provide documents that prove my defense and refute the claims being made. I will not take up time, space, and comic media inboxes with a full listing and file attachments here, but files will be posted on my personal blog at http://lighting.motime.com with links and details as to which claims they disprove. Supporting documentation to the defenses I have made in this letter can be found there.
I have also requested additional supporting documentation from Diamond, Amazon, and BookSurge regarding the support of my defense and will continue to post those materials if and when they become available.
I will also be refuting points made by Mr. McLelland directly in his article located at http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=96024
As I move on with my life away from publishing I hope Mr. Noel can move on with his and devote his time to his career and capitalizing on the success of Mr. Scootles because of its quality, not by negative sensationalism.
Once I have posted up all of my responses and documentation online I will not waste anymore time on this matter nor concern myself with prolonging it, however if new unsubstantiated attacks continue I will explore my options for legal action.
If any comics media outlet would like to ask any further questions of me regarding this matter or request faxes or higher-res images of the documents posted online I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and will provide further contact information as requested.
Sincerely wishing Mr. Noeldechen the best of success with Mr. Scootles,