Robot 6

Sean Murphy on the affair of the Wolverine ABCs

Sean Murphy's Wolverine ABCs

Last week, in the wake of the Gary Friedrich case, Joe the Barbarian artist Sean Murphy said he would no longer sell sketches or do commissions of characters he doesn’t own.

Over the weekend, Murphy explained how he learned from personal experience that even a small, innocently conceived project can put a creator into legal jeopardy. Murphy did a set of Wolverine ABCs and printed it up into about 200 sketchbooks to give to friends—including Marvel creators and editors—as gifts.

Because I was a pro and because I wasn’t selling them, I figured I’d be fine. After three conventions of EVERYONE telling me I should sell them, I broke down and sold some. At the last show that season, I sold the remaining 40 copies or so.

Then Marvel called. I explained that I didn’t have a warehouse of sketchbooks, I only made around 200 (or close to that) and mostly I gave them away. I explained how none of the Marvel editors complained when I handed them one, and my lack of hiding the ABCs should show the innocent nature of my endeavor. I even offered to sign a Cease and Desist, and pay them the money I made selling the last 40. But Marvel wanted the rights to the ABCs–they wanted to own them and pay me nothing. I wasn’t willing to do that, so I got a lawyer. And we eventually came together and agreed to drop the subject if I simply removed them from my site and promised not to make any more sketchbooks.

Murphy readily admits that he was in the wrong, not only in using characters he doesn’t own the rights to but also in thinking that Marvel would overlook something so small. While their reaction seems excessive, they were within their rights. And he is in no way reassured by the statements made by Marvel execs Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada about not making any new policies and not wanting to interfere with creators who are “providing a positive Marvel experience for our fans.” They seem to him to be purposefully vague, leaving the door open for them to take action if they choose—as, in his case, they already have.

(Via Blog@Newsarama.)

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16 Comments

You know, it’s not bad enough with the government working their fascist mitts to control the internet 100%, but now the comic publishers (well, the greedy, capitalists-gone-wild Big Two – Marvel and DC) have ruined the one thing I genuinely looked forward to when attending conventions: getting sketches of favorite characters by established and/or up-and-coming talents. Now, in light of the Gary Friedrich debacle (yeah, thanks, JoeQ – I still am amazed at how you and Dan Didio continue to find new ways to become sullied each and every day. Keep it up, gang!). *sad face*

Ugh! Hit the wrong key before I was done. Sorry about that.. What I was finishing with was: “In light of the Gary Friedrich debacle..” it looks like we’re going to only have to get sketches from that particular artist’s own characters, no one else’s. Yeah, 2012 is REALLY shaping up to be a swell year!

“…they wanted to own them and pay me nothing.”

Sounds like pirates to me. I honestly don’t care that Marvel “owns” the character, give Logan a pompadour and claws on his feet, and you have a whole new guy. It’s the craft that I value as a comics reader, not the characters.

Spacedog2k5: ” it looks like we’re going to only have to get sketches from that particular artist’s own characters, no one else’s. ”

And is that really so terrible?
I’d much rather have a drawing of the artist’s creation instead of someone elses. If I could ask Charles Schultz for a drawing it would be of Peppermint Patty. Not fucking Batman.
And when I’m at conventions I’m much happier to sketch Luchadore Plato or Karl Marx for a fan instead of yet another MODOK for the THOUSANDTH time.
Maybe I’m just weird.

Ryan: I totally understand what you’re saying, and I don’t want you (or anyone else for that matter) to that I meant what you were implying. Hell, I would much rather have Dave Sims draw me Cerebus rather than Captain America. But, on that same foot, who’s to say it would not be just as cool to have Dave Sim draw a sketch of Cerebus and Hellboy together, perhaps sharing a smoke together (or something).

Ryan —

You invented Karl Marx?

Wow.

See, this is what happens when the ACTION PHILOSOPHERS collection goes out of print & stays out of print (AFAIK) before I can get a copy!

Totally Off-Topic but that Karl Marx figure is pretty SWEET! My hat’s off to you, sir!

Tough break for Murphy but he at least seems to have a realistic, understanding/acceptance of the situation, both with regard to what happened to him (“Murphy readily admits that he was in the wrong, not only in using characters he doesn’t own the rights to but also in thinking that Marvel would overlook something so small. “) and how things might shake out in the future.

Oy vey. You know what? I don’t care one bit about the consequences: if I want to get a commissioned sketch of a headshot quartet made up of Colossus, Power Girl, Wheeljack from Transformers, and Barbecue from GI Joe by someone under that kind of constraint, I will tell them that if the company they work for has a problem with it, then they ought to man up and take it up with ME, the consumer–I’m the one buying their junk (or stuff related to their junk), I should have a right to tell them off for the stupid decisions they make regarding creative freedom. I wanted the sketch made, I aim to keep it, and if they don’t like the artist making me this keepsake, DC or Marvel should take it up with ME and not the creator. Anyone here disagree with me??? I thought so.

Hear this DC or Marvel–if you want to go after someone, go after ME.

Also, Spacedog2k5, it’s not Marvel or DC themselves–it’s the idiot goons running the joints. You want to go up against someone, go after THEM.

I’m confused. Pros often sell sketches, cover re dos, fake pages etc… with no outside interference. Was the issue in this case the fact that a batch were printed? If he only sold the original for 40 times the price of the preints (With no prints made of course) would Marvel have cared?

Good to know.

Hear this, DC or Marvel — if you want to go after someone, go after ACER!

;)

@Dan
Hey! I mean that EVERY fan who gets a sketch commissioned should make that statement, not just me.

@Acer —

Now, now. No backing down — you volunteered to take one for the team, & you know it!

@Michael Howey: I’ve generally heard that original drawings are fine but anything reproduced is a no-no, so as far as I know you’ve got it.

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