Robot 6

Steve Bissette calls for Marvel boycott in wake of Kirby copyright ruling

Online reaction has been noticeably subdued by a judge’s ruling last week that the family of Jack Kirby has no to claim to the copyrights of the characters he co-created for Marvel. Maybe it’s because a lot of people who’ve followed the case were disappointed but not exactly surprised. Or maybe, because the decision was in Marvel’s favor, there wasn’t outcry from the those readers whose chief concern is whether they’ll continue to get their monthly adventures of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four uninterrupted. Maybe both.

But Stephen R. Bissette, long an advocate for creators and creators’ rights, hasn’t been quiet. No, over the weekend the artist, perhaps best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore and John Totleben on Saga of the Swamp Thing, called on fans to draw inspiration from the woman who, dressed as Batgirl at Comic-Con International, increased pressure on DC Comics to address the number of female creators and characters in its September relaunch. (DC at last responded with, “We hear you.”) In short, he wants them to make next year’s Comic-Con “the least comfortable event Marvel or any fleeting participant in any product, movie, videogame, or anything derived from Jack Kirby’s Marvel legacy, should ever attend in the history of comicbook conventions.”

But the convention is nearly a year away. Bissette suggests that, in the meantime, fans should start by “simply pulling the plug on all individual support for any and all Kirby-derived Marvel ANYTHING (comics, movies, videogames, merchandizing). Now. Today. [...] TELL THEM what you’re doing, and spend what you would have spent on Kirby-derived Marvel product on other product from other companies in their store.” He continues:

Speaking only for myself: I’ve had it.

I’m done with Marvel and all Marvel Kirby-derived product, period. No movies (I was planning to see Captain America this weekend; that’s forever off the table), no more comics from their Kirby legacy, nothing.

Bringing greater public shame/pressure to bear may or may not yield results, but removing further investment in their exploitation of the Kirby legacy—which is, undeniably, 85%+ of Marvel’s pantheon—will send a message.

It’s not hubris (I know my nickel isn’t anything of consequence), and it won’t mean a thing if I’m the only one doing it, but I’m doing it.

If more do it, it WILL mean something.

It’s a lengthy post, one well worth reading, in which he reveals he received a $45,000 check from Warner Bros.’ 2005 Constantine movie for a character he co-created 20 years earlier, and “can’t help but wonder why it is Kirby never saw anything close to that in his lifetime. I wonder why it is that DC’s comparatively progressive treatment, revising work-for-hire contracts willingly over time to take better care of its creators, isn’t being waved in Marvel’s legal team’s faces.”

(via The Comics Reporter, who has additional commentary)

News From Our Partners

Comments

62 Comments

I admit that I’m not terribly familiar with the case, but Kirby is dead. Why should his family get anything? They didn’t create The Avengers.

because kirby barely saw a dime from those villains and he created or co-created just about everything that started the marvel u. they could have done right as a token of appreciation, but i’m not surprised that they continue to piss on his legacy.

Nor, for that matter, did Kirby co-create Spider-Man, which the Kirby’s claimed in their totally-not-opportunistic lawsuit we apparently should all feel terribly aggrieved about.

I’d be more interested in news of fresh 1963 comics from Mr. Bissette.

He was hired to create character, obviously he was payed for his services. What does his family have to do with work for hire characters. Would anyone know of his characters if marvel didn’t exist.

Look, its a shame, and I know exactly where Bissette is coming from, but if they had caved in now it would only hurt them exponentially in the future. Right now it’s Kirby’s immediate family, but tomorrow it could be their kids saying the settlement wasn’t enough the first time, or the residuals aren’t flowing like they feel they should be. Take a look at the Superman lawsuit (DC, by the way, isn’t much better than Marvel in this respect). DC settled with Siegel and Shuster in the 70′s. But as soon as they’ve both passed away, their families see dollar signs, figure the old men didn’t fight for enough and go after DC again.

I respect Bissette’s opinion and action here, but it isn’t the right way for me.

Yes matt, because Jack Kirby was working from an alley dumpster in between begging and trading sexual favors for pencils and paper when he drew all those pages for Marvel, right? They didn’t pay him a salary or anything, those villainous scoundrels!

Good thing he escaped from their tyrannous yoke in time to bring the world such non-Lee A-listers as Orion, Lightray, Silver Star and Captain Glory!

read the kirby book that evanier wrote and you’ll see just how well treated and paid kirby was while working for hire, mr. marvel zombie prowler. in the 80′s DC showed him more respect and began paying him creator’s fees, for those non A listers that he created for them.
“Would anyone know of his characters if marvel didn’t exist.”
Would marvel exist without his characters? granted he didn’t create fanboy fodder like wolverine and deadpool, so maybe marvel would somehow. this argument is pointless…

It is interesting to see the apparent change in the online opinion about this subject. I remember that a few years ago, any post that involved Jack Kirby and Marvel would almost always devolve into a 100% Stan Lee/Marvel bashing.

But recently the opinions seem to be much more divided. I have no idea why.

I respect Mr. Bissette’s actions and opinions – but he’s cheating himself out of some great entertainment if he boycotts the Captain America movie.

Dan Houser (@DipswitchDan)

August 1, 2011 at 11:10 am

Whoa, Prowler. Didn’t he create Darkseid, too? Apokolips? Lots and lots of the mythos of the DCU come from his New Gods books. The villain of two seasons of the Justice League cartoon, and pretty much any other current non-comic media to date of any worth? :)

And co-create Captain America? And co-create damn near the entire Marvel mainstay books? He was paid, and credited — but not compensated — for his part of giving a large publishing business a licensing bonanza. Shame doesn’t enter into the thoughts of any company that doesn’t want to part with money. It cannot, by the rules of the shareholders, make moves that will lose them cash. This could ultimately lose them lots of money, so they have to do what’s in the best interest for the shareholders.

Prowler, while he wasn’t in an alley, he was in a crappy apartment while ‘Funky Flashman’ was out on the town spending cash like Nolan Bushnell — not exactly fair to the guy who ‘co-created’ these books.

I think a royalty deal would be fair. But again, Disney ain’t about to be fair when it doesn’t have to be. And what gets Disney to comply?

Ask Kevin Smith.

‘Boycott’.

DH

I think my response to this will be clear on Wednesday when I pick up the next issues of Avengers and X-men related comics…

I am already boycotting Marvel and DC for being shit.

Unfortunately I went into two of the biggest comic book stores in Glasgow and they had wall to wall superhero shit, huge numbers of Marvel and DC crossovers and one shop had shelved so heavily stacked with garbage Big Two event comics that I struggled to browse any of the covers.

Most of the good Image and Dark Horse comics I already bought 2 weeks ago. Even LOEG 1966 looked shit. When Gaiman is AWOL and Moore is disappointing, comic books are in trouble.

I was quite happy to spend a lot of money but unfortunately there was so little quality product to spend it on.

It was depressing, but no wonder comics are a minority interest.

Grown ups wouldn’t be interested in such grasping juvenile story lines spread our across an obnoxiously large cash grubbing number of issues and any kids in those stores wouldn’t know where to start.

I’ve always thought that even if the Big Two bombed, other stuff would fill their place but it wouldn’t keep the comic shops in business. And if they go under then where is anyone supposed to get the indie comics?

We’re in real trouble, peeps.

Fardarie Lawrence

August 1, 2011 at 11:27 am

I don’t mean to be rude but that was the way Marvel did it back in the day. Work for hire. Kirby got paid for his work. Now that it’s years later and the characters have become more popular than anticipated and his family wants a cut of the profits. If they had proven that Marvel engaged in some sort of double dealing, illegal, or fraudulent behavior that would be different but that’s not the case. Kirby obviously read the contract and signed the contract and now his family wants to sue. The law doesn’t work that way. I’ve downloaded and read the case. Kirby assigned all of his rights to the characters to Marvel and signed the contract that said he was a “work for hire employee.” This was a frivolous lawsuit from the beginning. Copyright laws do not apply to work for hire employees. The Marvel CEO’s who were there when Jack Kirby was working at Marvel are not there today and Marvel has no obligation to re-write contracts that Kirby signed of his own free will. Kirby knew this while alive so he never sued. Obviously family members now wanna try to circumvent the law and make an issue of this. Now they want to the courts to re-write the copywright law so Kirby can get profits that he legally signed away. I don’t think the court is going to do that, that’s a job for the legislature. Now the Kirby Estate is gonna sue and sue I hope it does go to the Supreme Court so they can put an end to this foolishness.

I can proudly say I’m part of the boycott, though in all honesty, I haven’t been buying anything Marvel for a while, now.

To the argument that Kirby’s children shouldn’t get anything because they didn’t do anything, which always comes up with the Seigel/Shuster lawsuit too, all I can say is, then by that logic no one should inherit anything they didn’t work to create? And in all fairness, how can you sit there and say any such thing? Can you prove or disprove that something cute Jimmy said when he was little wasn’t the inspiration for Thor or that Kirby’s children by very virtue of their existence didn’t necessitate Jack Kirby’s inspiration because otherwise how was he going to feed the children? And honestly, the stock owners of Marvel comics have done anything to create the characters or the stories? Its a baseless argument that always comes up when this stuff comes up.

Creators should have rights to their creations, regardless of work for hire or not. Back then that was the whole kit and kaboodle. You sold your work or you didn’t work, that hardly seems fair by today’s standards and while I’m not all for taking all of Marvel’s rights away I think they Kirby estate should be allowed to share in those rights and any moneis now coming in if not retroactively. Because its the right thing to do. The Marvel empire was built on the backs of their creators and they got only a pittance of the profits, immense that it wouldn’t cripple Marvel to share now.

I find it sad that so much of the fanbase is so resistant to any kind of creator owned rights. I think more creators should just do what people like Kirkman and the guys at Image do and just own their own work. If the big two were more receptive to doing that for creators they would probably have more creators knocking down their doors, they’d have more diverse ideas to choose from, and they’d have a wider reading pool and a more diverse audience. But that’s probably because most creators when given free reign don’t want to create new superheroes, as exampled by the varied and different types of titles that Image and DH and other independent publishers put out.

I am following this boycott. Regardless of Kirby being given work for hire. He created about 85% of the Marvel Universe. To an extent I understand although I do NOT agree with him not given his co-creation and copyright credit. Marvel has never given Kirby credit for creating Captain America along with Joe Simon. That should be done. Captain America predates Marvel Comics. The Kirby estate should at least be given compensation for the characters Jack Kirby has created. Marvel has made hundreds of millions of dollars off of the work of Jack Kirby. Stan Lee has done everything to diminish Kirby’s role in creating the characters Jack’s pencil and imagination have given life to.

What John Byrne thinks of Steve Bissette’s thoughts.

“Extraordinarily naive, for one who has been floating around the business for as long as Steve.”
http://www.byrnerobotics.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=39494&TPN=2

I’m pretty neutral on this. I know nothing of what Kirby went through during or after his work on comics. But Mr. Bissette is barking up the wrong tree on this. The only people going to ‘join’ the boycott are people already not buying Marvel’s products, and most of the people that are buying them knew about this case and are already voicing their opinion by buying the comics.

Matt, just because I don’t automatically fall into lockstep with you and the rest of the Saint Kirby/Perfidious Lee crowd doesn’t make me a dogmatic Marvel Zombie. In fact, it amazes me that all you people that sing Kirby’s praises for co-creating the Marvel mainstays, characters that are so compelling and timeless exactly due to their imperfections and the shades of gray in which they’re drawn, are so quick to assign white hats and black hats in this conflict between the Kirby heirs and Marvel. All I see are two competing factions equally driven by self-interest, one of which aligns with mine, the other not so much.

Dan Houser, I’ll grant you that Darkseid is one of the two or three quintessential DC cosmic villains, but with the caveat that absent Stan Lee’s soap-opera humanism, he’s considerably less interesting (and usable) than say, Doctor Doom or Thanos. Which is not to say that I think the Fourth World is worthless or anything: I’m a huge fan of Mister Miracle, who has one of the best, most spectacularly psychedelic costume designs and a great power/gimmick.

As for your other points, I’ll refer you to Fardarie Lawrence’s post, which nicely encapsulates my own views on the matter. Jack Kirby knew the score back then, no use getting upset about it five decades later now that (the people in charge at) Marvel and the industry as a whole have changed for the better. Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Funky Flashmans (Flashmen?) of this world: imagining Stan Lee living it up in his swinging ’70s leisure suit just makes me smile uncontrollably, not seethe with self-righteous rage/jealousy.

Finally, something I don’t gets touched upon enough in these Kirby lawsuit discussions: I don’t think the current success of characters like the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, Spider-Man etc. is solely the result of the original creators’ genius and efforts. All you people in the pro-Kirby heirs camp like to talk about fairness, but how do you measure the many and varied contributions of people like Walter Simonson, John Romita, Frank Miller, Bob Layton, John Byrne, Chris Claremont and so on when reappraising the ‘fair financial compensation’ the original creators should have had? Iron Man being able to carry two hit movies today, how much of that is Kirby/Heck/Lieber/Lee/Layton? How do you *fairly* break down all those other work-for-hire contributions over the years?

One hopes that if I become a pillar of American pop culture at some point down the line, a desire for ethical compensation will not engender such a hateful response as I see here.

Hard to say Prowler, but it is easy to point out that none of those creators, including Stan Lee, made any characters that have been as successful and long lasting as those that Kirby did.

As Bissette points out, Stan Lee wrote lots of stuff without Kirby and Ditko, and yet somehow never managed to make anything equal to what he did with those two.

Also no coincidence that Stan Lee, part of Martin Goodman’s family, was the only one who was allowed to set up a great deal for themselves back then.

Brian Nicholson

August 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm

It is funny to point out, although not necessarily germane to this conversation, that all of the work Kirby created for Marvel in the sixties would be in the public domain by now if it weren’t for extensions of copyright law pushed for by the Disney corporation to protect such Walt-Disney-created characters as Mickey Mouse.

(I could be wrong about this, actually, in terms of referring to the sixties work, but am fairly certain that Captain America would be in the public domain by now.)

Yes Jason, but as I already pointed out in my first post, the reverse of Bissette’s point applies as well:

Kirby + Lee = FF, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, X-Men
Kirby – Lee = Devil Dinosaur, Captain Glory, Etrigan, the Fourth World characters
Ditko + Lee = Doctor Strange, Spider-Man
Ditko – Lee = Static, Mr. A, the Question

Now, you might think that Kirby’s solo creations are a bunch of wayyy cool, classic characters (and you wouldn’t be wrong), but they haven’t been either as successful or as long lasting as the Kirby/Lee *collaborations*.

Furthermore, I’d argue that Stan Lee’s success in creating truly durable (as in: still being published) characters together with such non-Kirby artists as Steve Ditko and Bill Everett/Wally Wood (Daredevil) shows us that his importance to Marvel’s genesis and value as a creator weren’t as negligible as you claim. In short, Kirby and Ditko created good characters on their own, but only with Stan Lee in the mix did greatness truly ensue.

Being neutral in this sense, I can point to only one thing as the source of all these constant debates over creator rights and such: the 1909 Copyright Act. It hasn’t been changed in all the decades of its existence, and I believe that it should be greatly updated to ensure we don’t have any more long and tedious cases like the Kirby or Siegel/Shuster cases. One big aspect of the revision=a fair and equal royalties deal always being guaranteed between the company and the creator+family.

“the 1909 Copyright Act. It hasn’t been changed in all the decades of its existence.”

It was revised in 1976 and again in 1998. Those revisions are what allowed corporations to hold on to properties that would’ve otherwise lapsed into the public domain, and permit the heirs of creators like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and (so far unsuccessfully) Jack Kirby to file to terminate the transfers of copyright.

Seriously, I don’t know how any of you Robot 6 people can continue to write for this blog given how many stupid, heartless readers you have. Luckily, most of them are nickname-wielding man-children, so no one has to take them seriously. Still: yikes. It’s like some kind of virtual Kitty Genovese gallery in here.

Whether or not Kirby’s family has a legal right to share in the billions of dollars generated by these characters is what’s being decided in court through this case and the appeals process that will follow. What people are arguing today is the moral right that Kirby — and since Kirby’s not here his family — has to a modest share in the rich rewards roughly equal to two or three years of bonuses received by a bunch of goofy-ass lawyers privileged in life to sit on boards designed to lift money away from creators and into their pockets, people that have as much to do with the creation of these wonderful characters as you or I did.

No one on planet earth older than twelve years old is comparing Lee and Kirby these days as some serious point of contention. It’s possible to love Stan and Jack. One’s awesomeness does not diminish the other’s. Lee did a ton of things super-well; Marvel would not have been possible without him for about a dozen reasons, from the script and idea work he did to a lot of unappreciated things, like his ability to communicate to artists he had exactly what he wanted in terms of dynamic art.

(And although I’m a fan of Lee’s work, I have to say that pointing out he did great work with Steve Ditko, Wally Wood and Bill Everett is hardly a slam dunk as to his stand-alone talent as those guys are all-time pantheon-level mainstream comics makers. I don’t think Lee needs to be a great stand-alone talent, though.)

The point is, though, that Stan Lee did receive — after regrettably having to sue — a level of reasonable compensation for his many and awesome contributions. (He deserves more, but still.) Why can’t the Kirby estate get a Lee-sized settlement? Why would this be such a bad thing? Why would this need to be wrung from Marvel in a court decision? DC manages to pay people for use of their characters in movies while Marvel blows this off — DC hasn’t collapsed because of this. Maybe there’s no legal reason to do it, but it seems there’s a hugely obvious moral reason. It’s the right thing for them to do. Since Marvel traffics in morality, why can’t they be moral here? Why is it “With great power comes great responsibility” in the comics and “With great power comes great responsibility to the shareholders and fuck everybody else” in real life?

I know that people say “that’s the way corporations are” but that’s just a horrendously debased and depressing way to look at life. Plus it’s historically inaccurate. All the big comics companies have changed policies for the better over the years, and stopped doing things that could certainly be defended as “that’s what companies do.” Why not change this set of policies, too?

Kirby did make a middle-class living for sure, which is nothing to be sneezed at in these days when companies would rather you work for shit-wages and “opportunities.” But Marvel treated Kirby poorly in a lot of ways, including but certainly not limited to crafting an official story that minimized his contributions and eventually losing his original art — almost certainly stealing some of it — and then making him fight for it in public like he was some douchebag that was a temp there for six months. Ruby-Spears, which barely used anything Kirby did for them, on the whole treated Kirby with greater respect than Marvel did. That’s just weird. So some sort of settlement would be nice on that level, too.

As far as the family thing, Kirby worked hard for and sometimes signed regrettable contracts for his family. This isn’t a great-grand-cousin. These aren’t wannabe moguls. These are the kids that were playing in the house while Kirby drew in that room with the Mexican radio station like some great furnace of creative power. These are people that want to right a wrong that happened to their dad, if only a wrong of proportion. These are people I’m guessing want to be able to afford the same health insurance Avi Arad has. Since they can’t pay Kirby, there’s no more appropriate place for any compensation to than to his family. If you wouldn’t do the same if that were your dad, I feel bad for your dad.

“largely if not completely — I’ve heard different things — blows this off”

George Bush (not that one)

August 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Humans disgust me.

Amen, Tom Spurgeon. I agree with absolutely everything you said. Unfortunately Kirby’s family don’t have a case in law. They should, but they don’t.

“Why is it “With great power comes great responsibility” in the comics and “With great power comes great responsibility to the shareholders and fuck everybody else” in real life?”

This is a classic quote which I intend to memorise and pass off as my own.

Unfortunately the economic argument trumps anything else you can think of, moral, legal or otherwise.

Why isn’t ever mentioned that when Kirby and Simon ran their own studio in the 50′s that they never let the creators working under them receive royalties or credit? They ran their business just like Marvel and DC. Work for Hire. Kirby knew what was going on and he got paid, but since his kids aren’t as successful they feel that Marvel owes THEM. Are all of you complaining about it just doing so because you feel the same way about your parents and grandparents? You can’t find work on your own so you feel that you can rife their coattails and coast on their accomplishments?

“Seriously, I don’t know how any of you Robot 6 people can continue to write for this blog given how many stupid, heartless readers you have.”

It’s awesome that a case in point came along only four comments after this one was written.

Some facts and figures:

David Maisel was Executive Vice President of Marvel Studios Sep 2006-Dec 2009. He left when Disney bought Marvel. His total compensation package on leaving was just over $9 million (plus some unspecified extras).

Isaac Perlmutter is current CEO of Marvel Entertainment. His compensation package for 2008 was $3,180,073. His net worth is $1.8 Billion. According to wikipedia (but otherwise unsourced) he “received $800 million in cash and $590 million in Disney stock” when Disney bought Marvel.

REFERENCES:

http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/933730/00011931

2510002018/d8k.htm
http://people.forbes.com/profile/isaac-

perlmutter/51424
http://www.forbes.com/profile/isaac-perlmutter
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Perlmutter

Well said, Tom Spurgeon. Too bad it’s 99% emotions, 1% arguments.

I’m not going to debate this matter with you, since pretty much all the salient points have been addressed (or, in your case, ignored) already in this thread. However, I would like to specifically disagree with your statement that “there’s no more appropriate place for any compensation than to [Kirby's] family.” Instead of parking a dump truck full of cash outside Casa di Kirby, I’d much rather see Marvel and especially DC expand their (financial) support for the Hero Initiative, a worthy cause that benefits *all* creators.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my popcorn is done and I think they’re still working over that Genovese broad outside, so…

You know, for a bunch of people who like reading about characters who fight for justice outside the law, a lot of you are real legal sticklers over actual morality and justice.

On what planet is it just that David Maisel gets millions while Kirby and his heirs get squat. Or, since so many of you trot out the excuse that Kirby is dead, does it make sense that Len Wein gets more from Lucius Fox’s appearances in Batman movies than he’s ever received for Wolverine’s appearances on the big screen, for which he gets zero?

@Earth-2 Chad

Ugh.

I’m going to just directly quote Syon, a knowledgeable poster at Bleeding Cool who addressed this very issue earlier today:

“But who should get the credit for Wolverine? Len Wein, the guy who came up with the idea for a Canadian hero with claws coming out of his gloves? John Romita, Sr. the man who designed his costume? Herb Trimpe, the first artist to draw Wolverine in a comic book? Dave Cockrum, the man who created Wolverine’s face? Gil Kane, who re-designed Wolverine’s mask into its classic shape? John Byrne and Chris Claremont, the men who turned Wolverine into a cult figure and who gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton and rapid healing power? Heck, how about Roy Thomas, the guy who created adamantium. Shouldn’t Roy get a check every time someone uses adamantium?”

(http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/showthread.php?45804-Steve-Bissette-Calls-For-Action-Against-Marvel-Over-Jack-Kirby-Case/page12)

This is a perfect example of how characters, not even the most popular ones, don’t all spring fully-formed into existence thanks to one, easily-identifiable creator. This is why I asked earlier how all you self-appointed members of the morality police think you can decide what’s fair and what isn’t when it comes to the retroactive compensation of Golden and Silver Age creators.

So what your basic argument amounts to is, if I build a bench from raw material, and somebody else paints it red, there’s no call for either of us to get any compensation for it because it’s impossible to determine the significance of our respective roles in the creation of said bench? That’s utterly ludicrous.

My grandfather was hired to build railways when he first came to the country. I demand the train companies give me money for every ticket sold.

Kirby was hired to do the work. Just because he did an outstanding job, doesn’t mean he is entitled to any more than those who did a fairly average job. Harsh, but true.

Brian Nicholson

August 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm

It’s funny that some are coming to the conclusion that the people in favor of families receiving royalties for work their father did never worked a day in their life and have only leeched off their parents’ wealth; whereas I am convinced that those who would diminish Kirby’s creation of multiple characters will never create anything of value (not incidentally, including life).

No Chris Jones, what’s ludicrous is comparing the building of a bench (a singular, physical item with a primarily utilitarian function) to the creation of a comic book character (an imaginary combination of visuals, backstory, personality traits and powers meant to support and function in stories with other, often pre-existing characters and be aesthetically pleasing).

For instance: your red bench is recognizable as such because a) you built it from b) your raw materials and it is c) painted red. Marvel’s Wolverine however, is still Wolverine whether or not he’s being published (in either the regular Marvel U, Ultimate, Old Man Logan, What If…?, Marvel Adventures or Marvel Manga flavor, all subtly different in appearance and demeanor), animated (by Gainax or Saban) or portrayed in a movie by Hugh Jackman, all in full color, or just simply being sketched in black & white by Adam Kubert. Wolverine, in other words is a concept that can be realized in many different ways, often at the same time. It’s why they call it Intellectual Property, as compared to your bench (which is just property).

Now, I could go on and on about how your analogy stinks to high heaven, but I hope that if you return to syon’s example of the current ‘Wolverine concept’s diverse origins and ponder it for a little while, you’ll realize that what makes ‘Wolverine’ a valuable property, something to be trademarked, copyrighted and exploited across various media, goes far beyond Len Wein’s original idea of ‘Canadian hero with claws’, making the question of retroactively doling out ‘fair compensation’ (on top of the original work for hire salary all creators involved received initially) very, very tricky.

WALLACE: Want some nuggets?

POOT: Nah, go on

WALLACE: (Chewing on a nugget). M– got the bone all the way out the damn chicken. . Til somebody come along they been chewing on drum sticks and s–, getting’ their fingers all greasy. Man said leave the bone [out], snug up that meat and make some real money. . .

POOT: You think the man got paid?. . .

WALLACE: S–, he richer than a m–

D’ANGELO: You think he got a percentage?

WALLACE: Why not?

D’ANGELO: N–, please. The man that invented that just some sad ass down in the basement at McDonalds. . .

POOT: Nah man, that ain’t right. . .

D’ANGELO: F– right. It ain’t about right, it about money. Now you think Ronald McDonald going to go down that basement and say, “Hey Mr Nugget. You the bomb. We’re sellin’ chicken faster you can tear the bone out. . So I’m going to write my clowny ass name on this fat ass check for you?

WALLACE: S–. . .

D’ANGELO: And the n– that make them things still working in the basement for a regular wage thinking of a way to make the fries taste better and things like that. Believe.

WALLACE: He still have the idea, though

To console myself over the hideous display of atavism in this thread, I’m imagining the relevant commenters’ faces when — in an alternate universe where their parents were as awful as they are — they go to the reading of their late parents’ will only to discover that it’s just a picture of Mom and Dad mooning them, the words “Earn your own keep, you parasites!” tattooed across their collective quartet of buttcheeks.

I don’t even have words. If you create something, YOU GET CREDIT FOR IT. PERIOD. Look at the little box in Wolverine’s entry on Wikipedia; I know Wikipedia isn’t a valid scholarly source, that’s completely immaterial to what I’m talking about. In the little box, it says “created by Len Wein; Herb Trimpe; John Romita Sr.” Now why do you think it says that? Oh. It says that because:

-Len Wein wrote the first comic Wolverine appeared in.
-Herb Trimpe drew the first comic Wolverine appeared in.
-John Romita Sr. designed Wolverine’s costume and appearence, for that first costume that he appeared in.

If Len Wein did not write that comic, and Herb Trimpe did not draw that comic, and John Romita Sr. did not design Wolverine’s costume for that comic, then Wolverine would not exist. That is why it says, “created by Len Wein; Herb Trimpe; John Romita Sr.” in the little box. It seems extraordinary that i would even have to explain that, but here we are, If you make something, YOU GET THE CREDIT.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s another fun fact that very few people seem to understand, or seem to brush under the rug when it isn’t convenient for them: Making a comic, drawing it and writing it, is labor. It is a job. These characters do not fly fully formed from the womb of imagination and onto the printed page. Drawing something requires materials. These materials are used in service of an idea, the idea that comes from the person making the drawing often, but oftener, in the realm of comics, from another person who gave the artist the idea. That is why they both get credit, because, in a sense, the idea is from the both of them: One creates the concept and the other visualizes it. So it is not very much unlike making something at all, because it is, in fact, making something, with pencils and typewriters rather than screws and bolts.

Heh.

You forgot an especially apt one:

D’ANGELO: “The king stay the king.”

Now, I could go on and on about how your analogy stinks to high heaven, but I hope that if you return to syon’s example of the current ‘Wolverine concept’s diverse origins and ponder it for a little while, you’ll realize that what makes ‘Wolverine’ a valuable property, something to be trademarked, copyrighted and exploited across various media, goes far beyond Len Wein’s original idea of ‘Canadian hero with claws’, making the question of retroactively doling out ‘fair compensation’ (on top of the original work for hire salary all creators involved received initially) very, very tricky.

And yet, DC Comics does it ALL THE TIME, retroactively, for properties that make the transition to other media. So what’s Marvel’s excuse?

Gee,did Bissette ever doing a boycott too for the superman/siegel fam debacle?

to chris, tom and all the other well spoken individuals commenting on this. it’s obvious that no matter what you say (and in your cases how well you say it), that the prowler will continue on being a pedantic overbearing bully who has no care about the actual people that produce the work that he’ll continue to stuff in bags and smugly tear down on the internet. he’ll continue to throw his sub-ayn rand, pseudo libertarian nonsense about no matter how lucid of a point you make, so i salute you for your efforts.

Chris Jones, there’s no reason to apologize for your lack of words. Here, I’ll help you out (don’t worry, I’ll take it slow):

The issue at hand here is not so much the credit (be it on Wikipedia or anywhere else) itself, but the monetary value assigned to said credit.

You, if I’m not mistaken, state that you consider creating comics (and the characters, sets and plots therein) comparable to other forms of labor: an exercise in craft, much like a carpenter building a bench. Fair enough.

Now let’s say Ikea hires you to design and build a bench for them, which they will then mass-produce and sell around the world under one of their lame, made-up names: ‘Krimsi’. You sign a standard Ikea work-for-hire contract, in which you sign over the rights of your design in return for a lump sum based on the time, effort and skill they expect you to put into the design. Of course, being Ikea, they won’t feature your name anywhere on the product, but hey, you get the money and you get to keep the original, which you figure you can maybe sell down the road to some collector of original furniture models.

But then! Your bench is a smashing success! It quickly becomes one of the easily recognizable symbols of its era, a cultural touchstone much like the lava lamp in the ’70s. Year in, year out Ikea keeps selling the damn things (now at a noticeable but not unreasonable mark-up), raking in fabulous profits along the way, and always marketing the thing as *Ikea’s world-famous Krimsi bench*, rather than *Chris Jones’ world-famous red bench*.

In this scenario, does Ikea have a moral obligation to cut you in on the vast profits of this incredibly popular bench, when your original work-for-hire contract made no mention of profit-sharing or success-based bonuses?

Even simpler scenario: you’re a carpenter. Man hires you to build him a bench. He buys it. He then resells the bench for ten times the amount he originally paid you. It becomes a highly sought-after, unique collectors’ item. Do you have any moral claim to the profit he made reselling the bench?

Steve Bissette and the pro-Kirby camp in this thread argue that, in spite of a court of law’s ruling, Marvel has a moral obligation to give the Kirby heirs a big bag of money. After all, Marvel is making all these hugely successful movies starring characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby, so it’s only fair, right?

Going by *your own analogy*, comic book creator = craftsman/laborer, I don’t see why that should be the case. Man was given a job, got paid to do it. The end.

Now, me myself, I think there’s more to creating comics than craft and labor alone: it’s a creative profession bordering on the artistic. Like I pointed out, a bench is mostly utilitarian, whereas a comic book is meant to entertain, to thrill, to look pretty and inspire even more future purchases: in my opinion, it requires different, more complex skills than building a bench (but your mileage may vary).

That being said, let’s return to our mutual friend Wolverine. Assuming for a moment that we do believe that fairness dictate we give the creators of the ol’ Canucklehead (soon to be starring in his second solo movie) some long-overdue love in the form of a bag of big bucks, how do you suggest we divide these big bucks over the various creators involved? After all, the Wolverine in the movies does not:
-wear the costume John Romita Sr. designed for him
-have claws mounted on globes the way Len Wein conceived of him
-look in any way whatsoever like the first drawings Herb Trimpe (great artist btw) made of him
On the other hand, this cinematic Wolverine does have an adamantium (Roy Thomas) skeleton/claw, a healing factor (Byrne/Claremont), and a face that looks the way Dave Cockrum drew him. Oh, and his second movie is going to be roughly based on a limited series created by Claremont and Frank Miller, building further on a narrative already using elements of works by Paul Jenkins and Barry Windsor-Smith.

Taking all that into consideration, is it still so strange that Len Wein gets neither a huge ‘created by’ on-screen credit nor a huge sum of money?

Conclusion: people in this thread like to talk a lot about fairness, as if what’s fair is self-evident. It’s not, and they should shut their traps.

There’s a good reason that comics publishers retained sole rights to the characters they published – it was protecting their investment, and it didn’t start that way. We creators proved that we’re opportunistic bedhoppers back in the early, early days, when folks like Richard Outcault and Rudolphe Dirks would jump from one newspaper to another when offered a bigger paycheck, attempting to take the popular creations with them. So the publishing industry adapted. And Kirby, along with everyone else, knew what those adaptations meant, business-wise. Everyone knew the stakes. Everyone knew exactly what they were getting.

I do both creator-owned stuff and work for hire. The work for hire is just that. I get a fixed amount which I’m very happy with, knowing that if the comic sells one copy or one billion I’ll have made the same amount. AND I KNOW THAT GOING IN. So did Kirby. So did everybody.

That the creator-owned opportunities were not as readily available to Kirby and his peers is lamentable, but Prowler’s excellent craftsman analogy holds true.

I’m on both sides of this one. I love Jack Kirby and feel that someone should give some sort of compensation to his family if for no other reason than to say “thanks”. I won’t boycott Marvel products though (although I am reading ALOT less Marvel these days). I do have to laugh when I go to the movies and I see names like Quesada, Bendis and Millar on the screen with Kirby’s on the screen.

Sorry, Chris: to suggest that Kirby knew going in what he getting into doesn’t match history. If this were true, if this were clear, there’s no way he’d have been repeatedly asked or pushed into signing retroactive contracts. Besides, that argument only works if someone is suggesting a legal basis for that morality. That’s still being decided, but I’d suggest that’s not what’s being discussed here.

Also: almost no one’s assaulting work for hire as a concept anymore, so retreating to work for hire as a concept that works in some cases and therefore should work in this case isn’t much of an argument. Of course work for hire works in some cases. Of course it’s clear in some cases. Here it’s not. Just because I’ve done a work-for-hire assignment for Marvel — they haven’t paid me yet, come to think of it — and that worked for me doesn’t mean it has to work for Jack Kirby, too.

The concept that you have to work out exactly how much people get credit for what idea and that the inability to work out every single contributor’s exact percentages somehow means you have to throw your hands up in frustration or that this somehow makes a system where the original creator gets some modest return is worse than one where whomever has the contract keeps all the money is late-night dorm hallway nonsense.

I hate to have half an exchange with anyone’s who’s such a man-child and a chickenshit they won’t use their real name in 2011. But look, dude, no one’s impressed by your constant calls that you made earlier arguments that were ignored or that you could destroy arguments if you really wanted to when all you bring to the table is weak-sauce bullshit like that Ikea example. First of all, it’s hilarious that anyone would use that particularly dubious company to justify any sort of practice. Martin Goodman was many things, but he wasn’t a Nazi youth, and Marvel has so far avoided using child labor. But mostly it fails to apply in fundamental ways. You can puff up into that mock-lecturing tone and pretend it’s salient, but it’s not. Please provide a link to Jack Kirby’s 1961 contract that matches the fantasy document you’re pushing as a counter-example.

God, at least provide some counter-argument that takes into account that companies do this kind of thing all the time, even something as close as DC Comics paying Steve Bissette $45K for the Constantine movie even though Garth Ennis worked on the character, too, and show that this is somehow a worse thing than a company keeping that money for itself. Even if paying a creator somehow meant you had to pay everyone including the fans that made the character possible and the guy that invented the spinner rack, which is laughably idiotic, no one’s suggesting a system has to be perfect (even under dumb terms) to be better. You don’t have to right all the wrongs to right a wrong, or to do a good thing. I learned that from Spider-Man.

At least provide an argument as to why Marvel can provide better retroactive ownership/creation deals to creators working right now and not extend this in an easily modest way to older creators.

In an industry as corrupt and horrible as television you’ll see things like networks buying cars for everyone in a cast because the show got an emmy nomination. In comics if they make a movie based on something you did for them you might get a handshake from the star but buy your own damn ticket. Anyone who benefits to the tune of billions of dollars and doesn’t seek to modestly compensate the people whose work made this possible when to do so is relatively easy is an awful person, and a company that does it is being an awful company, no matter if their contracts allow it or not.

PS — If Kirby had had the standard furniture industry design deal of his day instead of the shitty, made-up on the fly, assurances in Martin Goodman’s office, retroactively applied publishing one he ended up with, his family would be rich to the tunes of millions and millions of dollars and Marvel would hardly notice the difference.

…his family would be rich to the tunes of millions and millions of dollars and Marvel would hardly notice the difference.

That right there is what drives me so nuts about all this. It would cost Marvel so little to do right by the creators of the past, and yet nothing is done.

@Tom Spurgeon:
Well said.
It’s going to fall on deaf ears for most of the more cruel or morally bankrupt posters on this site, but you are very much right.
It would cost Marvel hardly nothing, and the fact that they don’t even provide Kirby and Ditko and all the other creators a credit on the books is baffling and more than sickening. But, there’s the carnival barker’s name, on every book.
Ugh.

I’d just like to note that believing that Kirby’s heirs have no legal right to compensation from Marvel does not necessarily make one “chickenshit”, “morally bankrupt”, “cruel”, “stupid”, or “heartless”. It’s not often you find the more intelligent internet denizens (Mr. Spurgeon and Mr. Collins, in this instance) resorting to insults and name-calling.
I believe many people did not get worked up over the issue because the Judge’s decision was well reasoned and legally correct.

Tom, you’re really not in any position to criticize and correct my netiquette: in this thread, you and your cohorts have called me a chickenshit, a man-child, an atavistic throwback, an overbearing, pedantic bully, heartless, stupid, hateful, morally bankrupt and compared me to a *gang rape spectator*, all because I have the gall to-gasp!-not share your *shrill moral outrage*, and have gone to great lengths to explain and defend my position.

As for calling myself ‘the Prowler’, I’d like to point out that one of the most respected CBR commentators calls himself ‘Omar Karindu’: nobody feels the need whenever he pops up to say “Yo dude, why you name yourself after an obscure Doctor Strange character?! This is 2011, yo!”, so what the hell is wrong with me naming myself after a cool Lee/Romita creation that appeared in the first Spider-Man comics I ever read? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that: *nothing*. You’re just flinging shit because you can’t handle somebody standing up to your sanctimonious caterwauling. But hey, you want to play that game? Fine.

Going by Wikipedia, the only reason you don’t post under an alias is because there isn’t one big enough to hide your fat ass behind. Apparently, you’re a humongous whale who probably should spend less time writing books about Americans’ breakfast habits (gotta love that ‘research’, eh Tom?) and more on getting your enormous tuchas laid. Trust me Tom, it’ll be worth the two to three centuries of hitting the gym it’ll take you to fit inside a bed with another person!

(full disclosure: I could stand to lose some weight as well…)

((…but not as much as you, you fat walrus! And remember: throwing a hissyfit behind your computer does *not* count as exercise.))

Now that we’ve dispensed with the name-calling and ad hominems (and have hopefully all learned a valuable lesson about how hurtful and unkind they can be), let’s take a look, once again, at the heart of the matter.

As you yourself have pointed out Tom, we’re not discussing a legal matter here. Contracts, timelines, negotiations…the court has ruled on all that, and from what I’ve gathered reading through the depositions and court transcripts, it did so fairly. Yet you, Steve Bissette and veritably dozens of others disagree with this judgment, feeling that Marvel has a moral obligation to go beyond its legal requirements, and that if they don’t, us true blue comic fans should strong-arm them into amending their ways by boycotting their Kirby-related products, be they comics, movies, toys etc. – because as we all ‘know’, ‘Kirby was screwed over’, and ‘it’s not fair what they did to him’, the results of the legal proceedings be damned.

Well, I think it’s odd to claim Kirby was duped when he and Simon had pretty much the same you-work-for-us, your-work-is-ours deal in place at their own company. I think the Kirby heirs claiming ownership of Spider-Man (so conveniently ignored by all of you self-righteous jerks) reflects poorly on the fairness of their own intentions. And though I sympathize greatly with *all* the talented writers and artists that have contributed to the very lucrative modern Marvel mythos (and not just the few ‘creative furnaces’ you happen to have a hard-on for), and absolutely think they deserve more for their efforts, I don’t see how this lawsuit or this wannabe boycott helps them even one bit. Furthermore, I don’t have to provide you with arguments on how Marvel (and DC) can provide better retroactive profit-sharing participation for their older creators. That’s a separate discussion (albeit a very interesting and important one – maybe stock options?). Only relevant in this context is the fact, which I’ve illustrated by dissecting the origins of the modern-day Wolverine concept (a process we could repeat with such Kirby ‘creations’ as Iron Man and the FF’s Human Torch), that assigning creative credit and the commensurate financial reward we can all agree is ‘fair’ is a lot less straight-forward and a lot more complex than you and Steve Bissette and your ilk pretend it is. In other words, no, I don’t think that righting *a* wrong is either fair or an improvement if by doing so you’re committing a new wrong by marginalizing the contributions of the lesser gods of your particular pantheon (ie what’s fair about giving Iron Man money to Kirby’s family if that leaves the less-sexy Don Heck and Steve Ditko standing in the cold?).

Also, pointing at Marvel’s swollen coffers or Avi Arad’s net worth and assuming that their relatively vast wealth automatically proves your assertion that the Powers That Be didn’t even modestly compensate Kirby for his troubles (they did – see that whole middle class lifestyle he was able to afford) is populist tripe and completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Didn’t Marvel go bankrupt and nearly go under a decade or so ago? Isn’t the comic industry as a whole facing difficult, perhaps insurmountable challenges in these uncertain, changing times of dwindling audiences, recession and emerging new media? Seems to me the big publishers might need their money for other things than placating your extrajudicial sense of injustice.

Two final thoughts:

-It’s very easy deciding and declaring from your armchair how to best spend *other people’s money*.

-a parting, somewhat cynical but not entirely inappropriate quotation from my favorite HBO series:

SWEARENGEN: “I got a healthy operation here, and I didn’t build it brooding on the right and wrong of things.”

I was going to write a lengthy rebuttal to all of your nonsense but I think if you consider Al fucking Swearengen a model businessman then that’s the very last indicator I need to show that there’s absolutely nothing of value that can be exchanged between us.

Thank you, Joseph. Let me also apologize right now for what I just wrote about Tom Spurgeon: although I was, I believe rightfully, upset about the level of personal vitriol directed at me (and others deigning to disagree), that’s really no valid reason to get nasty myself.

Tom, though we might disagree deeply on this issue, I’d like you to know that I’ve been a regular reader of your great website (www.comicsreporter.com, check it out everybody!) for many years now and that I applaud your unwavering commitment to our beloved art form in all its magnificent diversity. Don’t stop doing what you do so well.

Prowler, I appreciate the nice words about the site.

To answer your question. The problem with naming yourself “The Prowler” is that I can’t take you seriously and and I would suggest no one should. This relates directly to the discussion we’re having. And you just revealed why this gives you an unfair advantage — you were able to find out personal stuff about me because I use my real name on-line. You can have your hissy fit and never risk getting insulted in return, never risk having people not hire you because of things you believe, and never risk getting punched in the face (not by me; I’m old). It makes your arguments less convincing because in the end, you don’t stand behind them. In fact, the first time through, I just skipped everything you wrote.

I appreciate the sentiment behind the apology, but I could care less if people make fun of me for being fat, particularly people I don’t know. I’m fat, and a little on-line research and supposition rarely digs up anything that actually applies to me in a “he’s fat, therefore…” kind of way. But mostly if I didn’t want people making fat jokes I’d become less fat. It’s all fair.

I don’t know, maybe if it were Kraven or Man Mountain Marko cracking on me, I’d be devastated.

Okay, that point’s been made, and now I’ll stop.

As for Joseph, I called The Predator chickenshit because I think that’s essentially what not using your real name on-line comes down to. I called people stupid because I thought their arguments were stupid. I stand by the rest of the words as a characterization of folks who hold the arguments they’re holding. In the real world not a comics message board, it’s understood when you tell someone they’re being say, stupid, you’re limiting yourself to the discussion at hand. I don’t know any of you people; you may all be genius saints with a blind spot on this matter. Or hell, I could be wrong. I don’t think so, but who knows? I’m wrong all the time. I’m sorry to anyone that kind of blunt characterization offends, but this is too important an argument not to speak plainly.

BTW: I’m not upset by the decision; I’m upset that Marvel has failed to do the right thing when doing so would be so, so easy.

As for other stuff, who’s ignoring the Spider-Man claim? I was told by a lawyer the other day that the Spider-Man claim may be one of the heirs’ best chances for an appeal because for that one there’s more evidence that Kirby had a pre-existing proposal a la Siegel and Shuster with Superman. I haven’t brought up a lot of specifics, but I’m happy to. When did it come up that I ignored it?

Also, I’ve never written I agree or disagree with the decision. I’ve written I think it should never have come to the decision, and that Marvel should have done and still should do the right thing. I’m still reading the legal material and even then my opinion will be a personal one — I did not, like so many folks on the message boards, graduate from Chatboard Law School.

At this point, I’m out. Having to explain what your actual positions are when confronted with characterizations of same that have nothing to do with what you’ve written is a sure sign an argument is tired and people have begun to talk to themselves.

I still hope Marvel does the right thing and settles with the Kirby heirs and establishes more progressive policies and is more uniform in doing so. I don’t say this out of position of moral authority — I’m a first-class fuck-up and can be a lousy person — but because I think it’s true and it distresses me that so many people disagree. Marvel would even benefit greatly from such a move, both in terms of immediate PR and in that a relationship with the Kirby family could be as advantageous for Marvel as something like the Nine Old Men was for Disney with hardcore fans — but mostly it’s the right thing to do and costs them so, so very little. I hope that you guys so quick to throw the Kirby family under the bus will eventually take a kinder position towards what they’re trying to do and not assume the worst of their motivations without really knowing. I also hope that agree or disagree with a legal position you don’t assume that a legal decision has superior moral force; that’s pretty scary.

It’s been two days since you were all going off on this, so I doubt I’ll get much of a response here (not that I want to argue this with most of you anyway), but after Tom’s last comment, I did want to ask aloud whether or not anyone has thoroughly researched a timeline of Simon & Kirby insect-related characters as compared to the creation of Spider-Man. I’ve seen those Silver Spider pages by CC Beck for years, but how all that and the Fly and what have you relates to Amazing Fantasy #15 in any way remains a mystery to me.

“The Prowler,” people like you, with your laborious explanations of things that are obvious to almost anyone with a working mind, ruin the whole idea of public discourse. Why bother engaging on a topic when some Professor Anonymous will float up out of the ether to fling turds all over everyone who has the gall to ignore him and his pile of idea-turds.

On top of that: fat jokes. Like actual real fat jokes. What the fuck? Crawl back under a rock, your smug rock, your lonely rock. Better make it a big rock: I hear you’re a little overweight. I’d suggest that most of the extra weight you carry is in your mouth.

Yeah, it sure is awful being a Professor Anonymous who puts in the time and effort to actually debate an issue rather than rage impotently and sling insults in miniscule morsels of text. If only I could be a cantankerous Bitchy-come-lately like you, Dustin!

Here’s an idea-turd for you to chew on for a while: engaging in public discourse means dealing with people who don’t think, talk or write like you, which is exactly what makes it both frustrating and fun. If you can’t stand the heat, and so forth. I know, I know, there I go again, laboriously explaining that which should be obvious, but I guess I just like schooling know-nothing country bumpkins from North Carolina with their mental speed stuck on dial-up.

Have a nice day!

(Postscript pro-tip: nobody will ever read your crummy comics, so from now on don’t bother getting up in the morning.)

I believe this thread ran its course … some time ago.


Browse the Robot 6 Archives