millarworld.tv Comics Creators

The de-politicisation of the comics community


#1

Here’s an interesting thought.

Fandom has never been cooler or more engaged. Readers know everything that’s going on at every level of the industry because of the democratisation of information via so many different multimedia operations. But I wonder… do fans still care about creator rights like they did in the past?

I bring it up because I was flicking through some old fanzines from when I was a kid and every other article was about mistreatment of comic book professionals by big companies. The campaign to get Kirby his artwork back was a huge deal when I was a teenager and there was a lot of talk about what Adams had done for Superman’s creators when he shamed DC into giving them a modest pension and an invite to the 1978 movie premiere.

This was all very evident on the cooler edges of fandom in the late 80s especially where being a Marvel fan in particular was a very derogatory term and editorial could even be hate figures. But it was actually quite a shock to read through all this old stuff because if anything the IP has become even more valuable with the billions generated from TV, games, merch and movies making this all SO much more valuable when so many of the people behind it are impoverished or close to it. A stark moment for me was Green Lantern’s creators not even getting a credit on the movie, which seemed an especially retrograde step given that even Superman’s creators were eventually credited in 1978. The excuse was that that FOUR creators (instead of the usual two) were behind the two incarnations of Green Lantern, but the obviously answer to that of course was simply four names in the credits.

But it’s interesting how different internet journalism is now. The Woodward and Bernsteinism of the Comics Journal era - where the big companies were under constant scrutiny - seems to have given way to something a little more press-release orientated. Do we need fans to be radicalised again? I dunno. But it’s interesting to read through those old mags and what a very different comics press existed. Have we as fans maybe been TAMED a little too much? Has corporate loyalty replaced creator rights? I’m watching Daredevil and loving it like Sopranos or The Wire, but a big part of me feels uneasy when I don’t see Frank Miller’s name in those credits when pretty much every scene in season one comes from his 1980s run and the Man Without Fear graphic novel.

We live in the time of the Twitter crusade and yet fandom is very, very quiet on these things now, just happy to watch a good TV show.

I see a good discussion here. What’s your feelings on all this?

MM


#2

I think from the graphic novel perspective I’ve just always (maybe naively) assumed rights were in order, in that those who don’t own them at least had a deal they were happy with or used to, and that creator-owned meant exactly that. By the time I came to comics I knew the Superman thing had (kind of) been sorted credit-wise years before and assumed there was a precedent made (I didn’t know at the time the ongoing battle from the Siegels and so on). Since learned in researching it for something that I was way off the mark on how it was all handled. Think that might be a reason - a naive assumption that it’s fine because it’s not being so publicly scrutinised? Think if it was being picked at constantly I’d have had a stronger opinion on it before now.

I’ve never even thought about the TV series really, probably a fault of taking so long to get around to actually watching them all to notice the lack of credits. Been looking into all this though the last few months, so really interested in what others have to say.


#3

We did have a discussion here about how DC’s policy seems to have changed into the direction of “fuck creators whenever we can” and not paying any royalties at all whenever possible (Conway got the ball rolling on that one, with Caitlin Snow on the Flash).

It’s a good point on Daredevil, too. The whole TV thing should’ve been a great opportunity for comics writers to be acknowledged and ideally paid a bit, at the least, but it seems like that isn’t how things are going.

In the realm of comics themselves, I think things have changed a bit from the eighties - back then, the big two were pretty much the only way to make a living in comics. These days, there’s so many others out there, mainly Image’s very good deals, that I suppose DC’s and Marvel’s practices aren’t being seen as such a big thing anymore. You don’t like it, you really don’t have to work for them anymore - there’s plenty other, better publishers out there. And many of the stock DC/Marvel writers and artists are doing just that and doing their own creator-owned series on the side.


#4

But what about the writers and artists who have been doing this work for hire that’s being used in different media and generating billions? It’s wonderful for those of us creating stuff at Image or Icon, but Green Lantern and DD are good examples of where there’s an injustice. Daredevil is my favourite show, but the news that Punisher is coming into Season 2 and Fisk being in prison sounds like they’re doing Miller’s next storyline too and we’ve still to have Elektra, Bullseye and no doubt Born Again eventually.

It’s quite within the rights of Marvel and DC to do this of course as they legally own the rights to stories created for their characters under work for hire, but I think ethically they’re in a grey zone at best and I’m always surprised - in the Twitter era- we don’t see more reader outrage at the writers and artists receiving either nothing or very, very little.

MM


#5

Sadly, I think that the problem is that most of these giants of the industry are no longer with us or no longer attend conventions. Back in the day the “press” could have conversations with creators and so their plights seemed more urgent… now these stories are history lessons.

And I think the community is split on what payments, if any, are owed to the heirs. Some of that is a legitimate confusion as to why someone should receive millions just for being someone’s kid but I sense some of it is a more selfish concern that their favorite character might disappear if future royalties are due.

And I think the lack of a modern day legend pushing the issue hurts awareness. Neal Adams is a great creator but his pull in the industry isn’t what it used to be.


#6

I blame Mark Millar and the creators of his generation. :smile:

Every interview with you or Bendis or Brubaker or whoever says you knew the score going in, are happy with the big two and also doing your own things.

You can’t feel that sorry for Frank Miller not getting his full dues for Daredevil when he has his name plastered all over movie posters for "Frank Miller’s Sin City 2’ the 4th movie adaptation of his creator owned work. A lot of the creators in those 80s magazine stories were genuinely struggling to get by.

I think if people see a real social injustice they do react, a recent one being where GotG made so much money and Bill Mantlo (co-creator of Rocket Raccoon) is severely disabled and requires a lot of care, fans did pipe up loudly, but even in that case his brother went online and said Marvel had made a generous financial contribution.


#7

I dunno, bro. Just because Miller has Sin City doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get credit and cash for DD I feel. It’s like owning two shops. It’s true we can’t feel sorry for him financially, but he created Stick and that entire world DD inhabits, all the major characters and storylines we’ve seen and will see.

Green Lantern is the ultimate one for me. The fact the creator names weren’t even on the movie was shameful. We can joke it was a blessing as the movie so bad, but even so. It’s cash his family didn’t receive when they blew 100 mill advertising that thing.

MM


#8

I agree on principle but it can’t be denied that it’s basic human nature you can’t really feel that aggrieved for a guy making a lot of Hollywood cash and likely doing very much better than you.

Can’t argue with the Green Lantern though, that is shameful.

Did you see the recent ripple with Gerry Conway and how DC are seemingly using double standards on their creator bonuses?


#9

Frank Miller does get named in the Daredevil credits, along with other prominent DD creators:

http://cdn.bleedingcool.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/thanks.png


#10

Neal Adams breaks down the unethical “work made for hire” deal here.


He’s also explained it in one of the podcasts he did with Kevin Smith… (All of which are worth a listen by the way. Neal tells a great story with words as well as with a pencil.) His opinion is that the Kirby family was paid off because if the case went to the Supreme Court, they would have seen the “work made for hire” deal and struck it down.

Gerry Conway recently brought some of DC/Warner’s legal shenanigans to light as well, which made a wave online for a few days or two and then fizzled out, because we have a very short attention span nowadays, which is the other side of the twitter sword. Instant visibility to millions… then it gets buried under a hundred other tweets of cat videos in half an hour.

Frank Miller’s name does appear under the special thanks in Daredevil, as well as Bendis, Mazzuchelli, Conway and others. But if you let Netflix whisk you away to the next episode without watching all the end credits, you might not see it. Whether or not Marvel Studios sent cheques to all those guys, only they know. MS could certainly afford to at this point. The amount which the average creator would consider “a lot” or even just “fair” would probably be nothing to the coin Marvel is making right now, and probably less than half of the craft services table on Avengers. I know of a creator that did receive a very nice cheque a few years ago, but since I don’t believe it was public knowledge I’m not going to say who it was, from which company or for how much, but it was very generous, as he put it, “Shut up money”. Bill Mantlo was apparently treated very nicely by Marvel for Rocket Raccoon and considering his health, that was very cool of them.

Perhaps the average comic fan doesn’t care about creator’s rights anymore. The 2000’s are unfortunately a very cynical age and that if you want to work (or have worked) for the big two it is perceived as a given that once you get paid, that’s pretty much it except for some minor royalty cheques later on and if you want creator’s rights, you’re expected to make your own book and take it to Image, IDW or someplace like that. Otherwise, don’t expect squat and stop complaining.

The problem is a lot of money is being made off the backs of creators who are not in the limelight in the industry anymore, retired, or even passed on. That some character created in the 1960’s is being used to make millions and the creator who is in their 80’s gets nothing and requires Hero Initiative if they slip and fall.


#11

I think whole new generation of people has grown up since the campaigns of the 80’s and 90’s, and the next generation is on it’s way of course, there’s always a next and a next etc.

People have to be reintroduced to this issue and it’s history. It’s an ongoing process. It would be great to see it settled, just a blanket shift in how rights are managed and payments made, but that’s going to take the kind of legal challenge that hasn’t happened yet; the Supreme Court examination of things that was mentioned earlier.

But it does matter, and I hope that the current fans keep passing the torch (or sharing it) and so on, until there is a real transformation. One day.


#12

Ah, that’s something, then. Good that you noticed this.


#13

Yes, it’s good that there’s an acknowledgement.

I don’t know whether it translates to monetary compensation though. MM mentioned recently that he was sent a modest payment in recognition of elements of his work that were used in Age of Ultron, so it’s possible that some or all of these creators received something similar for Daredevil.


#14

I think it’s all over the place Dave to be honest. Marvel moved to more creator ownership in the late 80s so Liefeld says he gets paid something for just about every Deadpool and Cable appearance. Levitz at DC made payments they legally didn’t have to because he felt it was right and they say a lot of that was removed.

The funny thing is that Roy Thomas was wise to this in the late 60s, he wrote that he went into all the previous continuity because creating new characters for Marvel was a fools errand.


#15

Which, of course, you can spin as an argument against the creators: if he was aware of it then, why wasn’t everyone else? Is part of the larger problem naivety on the part of creators about what they’re getting into? Is there a case to be made that creators should be better educated in this area?

Of course, the counter-argument to that could be that it’s not really about not understanding what they signed up for, but it’s more about one party having all the power in the arrangement, meaning the publishers can force the hand of the freelance creator to make them accept poor terms.

In which case, maybe stronger collective representation for creators is needed. Do comics freelancers have a union? Could/should they have?


#16

I think their experience will be more in common with the average worker as time goes on. Job security is screwed and pensions devalued so we’re all freelancers now.


#17

Fans are political and radical now, but the cause is more for the inclusion of women and minorities, in fandom and the creators ranks, and both the inclusion and depiction of women and minorities in the books themselves. This is something I don’t remember seeing at ALL in the 80s and 90s (I’m sure it was there, just not on a very visible platform). So I think there is still a very aware, very political edge to comics fandom.

The creators rights issue is interesting as you are right, Mark, we don’t hear about it as much, and what’s even stranger is that now there is likely a much higher ratio of fans who aspire to be creators than at any point before.

My guess is people mainly feel that creator’s rights is a battle that has already been decisively won (in the case of contemporary creators) or lost (in the case of past creators), so there isn’t a lot to fight for anymore.


#18

That credit must be way deep because I didn’t see it and GL there’s nothing at all. But to put into perspective… if the book you own is adapted you get a life-changing amount of cash. Maybe 3X what the highest-paid person at Marvel or DC makes in a year for EACH movie adaptation plus box office bonuses. A thank you credit, if you get any cash at all, is maybe equivalent to your rate for around half a regular-sized comic in my own experience.

It’s an interesting difference from the 80s when companies were making merely publishing money based on creations whereas now they’re often making billions from the movies and merch. I was quite startled when I saw those fanzines of my teens.

MM


#19

I think a lot of modern fans are slightly more legal savvy. They’ve been seeing these cases play out for quite some time and know what is and what isn’t possible/probable. So it can be hard to get your hopes up for anything long term. “Work for hire” is a legal creation that had the potential to be broken with the Kirby case. I think that was the real fear and why Kirby’s heirs finally got something of an equitable deal.

The other side of it is we now know more behind the scenes details than we used to. So we know who did the screwing in some cases and that splits fandom.

I agree with Gar in that any radicallization is also dulled by the creators who say they knew what they were getting into and that there is another option even though it’s a long shot.

I think this is one of the reasons I love Millarworld. It gives the you and the artists you work with fuck you money. So you can continue to work for one of the bigger publishers or go do your own thing. The choice is what is golden.


#20

Agreed, Ronnie. I have 25 books I want to do over these years and I have about 20 pals in there I want to split it all down the middle with. Creatively, it’s a dream for us, but it’s also nice to have the financial security it brings.

Our generation owe Rob, Todd and the guys A LOT.

MM