Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why Bother?


Most of the rest of the week a lot of the material I cover and review will be of a positive nature, but first, I want to do a little venting, if I may.

Now, I really like Jaime Reyes, the current Blue Beetle, but the question keeps coming up: if a character is sufficently original, then why are you even bringing it to the table at Marvel/DC's main superhero universe? This isn't to discredit guys like Rogers or any of the dozens of people who've been doing it for years now, but the question remains; after everything everyone has ever learned about how corporate comics steal and malign creators' rights, why the hell would you even consider giving them you "A" material?

If Rogers had made the character for another company, where he would have had more control over his creation (most independent companies don't do total control these days, as adaptations to other media are too lucrative to be worth passing up), and came up with his own name, well, he wouldn't have been able to mine the DCU for every penny it's worth. However, outside of the comics blogosphere (hey, we're great, but we aren't the universe) exactly whom would give a damn?

Oh, yes, going with a Marvel or DC increases the chances your comic will succeed in the Direct Market (Well, that's not entirely true; it's far from an ironclad strategy). Big Whoop. Isn't being on top of the Diamond Catalogue really that meaningful? Or is it just some sick nostalgia for the 90s when that actually had some (false) signficance? Who cares if it's 40,000 or 70,000 of your floppy first issue that goes out? Isn't about where you end up and what you can make of your intellectual property?

Putting this into some kind of semi-relevant context: If I own a patent on a Device, then it's MINE. Complete, unto itself and I will fucking cut you up (in court) if you try to use it without giving me what I want for it. Now, the truth is, depending on what it is, someone with a patent will either have to make a deal with a company, or try and become a business themselves. Going with a company is not unlike with Marvel/DC, except that usually, you get the deal UPFRONT, and not after the fact. Furthermore, with most patent rules, you still get money if a company uses what is YOURS, even if you are no longer working on it. Gerber (or his estate) isn't getting any money from Letham's OMEGA THE UNKNOWN to my knowledge, even though if Letham had something resembling integrity, he'd put a chunk of his paycheck to such a cause, and making sure future creators don't get the screws the way Gerber did.

Honestly, it makes me question why ANYONE with half a brain would get into writing comics for the mainstream guys. Yeah, I mean, there are probably concepts and characters I'd love to write myself (and one day, I will share them with you) but let me be clear on this: SO LONG AS COMIC COMPANIES DO NOT PROVIDE PROPER REMEDIATION TO CREATORS, PAST AND PRESENT, I WILL NEVER EVER CONSIDER WRITING FOR THEM FOR ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY.

So yeah, that's my rant for tonite. Enjoy.

4 comments:

Michael said...

Are you a writer? More specifically are you a writer who has to choose between doing work for DC and Marvel or doing Indy work? It is a lot easier for the audience members to yell "No Deal!" when it isn't their livelyhood on the line.

I suspect the reason most creators do work for Marvel or DC is that it pays better overall than most creator owned work. They bring their A game to the work for hire they do because better work means better sales with means more work. I also wouldn't discount plain old work ethic.

While doing work for hire requires a loss of creative control, it also keeps the creators from being fiscally tied to the long term popularity of their creations.

Publishers take the risk of producing and distributing the comics. While they get rewarded with a big payoff when a Superman or Wolverine come along they also have to eat the loses that come with duds like Brother Power the Geek or Nomad.

Can creators always afford to gamble that they have the next Superman? I'm sure Jerry Siegel thought Funnyman was going to be bigger than Superman. He got a hard lesson in the risk associated with publishing.

In hindsight it looks like Jerry and Joe got hosed over. However, consider this: What would they have lost if Superman flopped? They were paid for their work ahead of time regardless of the success.

What would Harry Donenfeld have lost? All the captial he spent buying the comic, printing, advertising, and distributing. If Action Comics #1 had terrible sales, would Jerry and Joe have given Harry back their paychecks?

This is why the debate is always framed as "What does DC owe the Siegels for Superman?" and not "What does Centaur Publications owe George Brenner for the Clock?"

MrCynical said...

Your points and criticisms are valid, I'll grant you. No, I'm not a writer by trade, nor do I intend on becoming so in the future. That said, I'm an engineer and a researcher, whom has seen firsthand the differences in how intellectual property is treated, and I find it hard to swallow how badly kindred spirits are treated in a 19th century system.

"I suspect the reason most creators do work for Marvel or DC is that it pays better overall than most creator owned work. They bring their A game to the work for hire they do because better work means better sales with means more work. I also wouldn't discount plain old work ethic."

A fair statement, but, the question I'm asking is if you believe that abandoning creative control is worth the paycheck. "Work Ethic" implies that you believe that the company will treat you ethically, which given Marvel and DC's history, would seem rather naive.

"While doing work for hire requires a loss of creative control, it also keeps the creators from being fiscally tied to the long term popularity of their creations."

Which gives them incentive to creatively mature and be innovative with new creations. That's a plus, not a minus, in my mind.

"Publishers take the risk of producing and distributing the comics. While they get rewarded with a big payoff when a Superman or Wolverine come along they also have to eat the loses that come with duds like Brother Power the Geek or Nomad."

The Publisher in most cases has several decades of experience, and usually has a better idea than the creator what resources it can and will bring to bear on a given product. I'm in no way detracting from your arguement, but I would say that it almost didn't need to be said: Of course the Publisher has to know the risk it is taking. I just don't think it should be rewarded by granting them exclusive control in perpetuity. And just as reminder, no one except Marvel comics has ever seen money from the rights to Wolverine.

"Can creators always afford to gamble that they have the next Superman? I'm sure Jerry Siegel thought Funnyman was going to be bigger than Superman. He got a hard lesson in the risk associated with publishing."

He got a lot more than that, I would say. The fact that you keep bringing Siegel and Shuster understates my arguement here. Of course, I'd also make an arguement that Kirby is quite possibly one of the most screwed men in the history of this little industry, but that's not a name you really want to bring up.

"This is why the debate is always framed as "What does DC owe the Siegels for Superman?" and not "What does Centaur Publications owe George Brenner for the Clock?""

No, it's framed the way it is because Siegel, Shuster, Kirby, Carmine Infantino, Claremont, Cockrum, Messner-Loebs, Steve Gerber and a metric Shitload of creators SUFFERED TREMENDOUSLY while they could have lived much more comfortable lives for their work, but because they worked in an environment comparable to immigrant Wal-Mart employees, they never got what they earned.

If Superman had flopped, yes, Harry Donenfeld would have lost money. But Superman didn't flop, and instead HIS CREATORS SPENT MOST OF THEIR LIVES POOR. If you are blind to this basic, rudimentary injustice, and how this underscores everything that is wrong with the current system, then we shall simply have to leave it at an agreement to disagree.

Alan David Doane said...

Who are these writers and artists "bringing their A game" to Marvel and DC? That's the funniest thing I've read all day.

MrCynical said...

Alan, Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, for one.