Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Is a battle over Thanos building? Tim Marchman redux

Thanos

Creators | Following the appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor and the cameo by Thanos in The Avengers, Marvel appears poised to expand the cosmic elements of its cinematic universe with The Guardians of the Galaxy. While some fans eagerly await a movie announcement next week at Comic-Con International, Thanos creator Jim Starlin (who had to buy his own tickets to Thor and The Avengers) may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge: Heidi MacDonald points out that Starlin has posted an early drawing of the Mad Titan on his Facebook page, writing, “This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.” [The Beat]

Comics | Tim Marchman, author of that much-discussed Wall Street Journal article, is at it again, this time interviewing Watchmen editor Len Wein about his work on Before Watchmen, and including the interventions of DC Comics Publicity Manager Pamela Mullin as part of the story. Between the embargo on the comic and Mullin doing her job, it sounds like the most interesting parts of the interview never made it into the final product. [The Daily Beast]

Steve Ditko

Creators | The New York Post profiles, or at least attempts to profile, Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. “When The Post knocked on his door, Ditko — who turns out to be a owlish man with wisps of white hair and ink-stained hands, wearing large black glasses and an unbuttoned white shirt with a white tee beneath — pleasantly but firmly declines to answer any questions. Though he did say he reads The Post.” The reporter did manage to get a little more than that out of Ditko, however: He told them that while he still receives royalties for reprints of his work, he hasn’t received any payment for the recent Spider-Man films. [New York Post]

Publishing | Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy says (on Twitter) that he is willing to negotiate the rights to the original graphic novels published by the company, and that he has always been willing to do so — but for creators to get all rights back would require a buyout. A former Tokyopop creator offers some added insights in the comments section. [Comics Worth Reading]

Publishing | Papercutz, the children’s imprint of NBM Publishing, announced a first printing of 425,000 copies of the fourth Ninjago graphic novel; the first three Ninjago were strong sellers, with the second and third debuting in the top slot of The New York Times graphic books best-seller list. [Publishers Weekly]

Auctions | A private auction in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, will feature more than 2,000 items, including the first issue of The Avengers and early issues of The Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk. It’s expected to bring in $80,000 for the owner, a collector who started buying comics as a kid. [CTV]

Ministry of Space #2

Creators | Artist Chris Weston discusses his work on Ministry of Space, advertising storyboarding and “the smell of mutiny” by comic creators: “It’s no secret that super-hero comic sales are on the decline, and the Big Companies will be forced to think of ever more desperate gimmicks and events to keep the readers hooked. What they should be doing is offering the creators better deals and more creative freedom. Before Watchmen may get green-lit, but would the original series get commissioned in the current climate…? A 32-page book, no-ads; a stand-alone story with all new characters… and creator-owned? Would a company like DC go for that nowadays? Nah. But they should.” [The Sardinian Connection]

Creators | Mike Norton talks about his webcomic BattlePug, and its upcoming collection being released by Dark Horse. [ComicsAlliance]

Edison Rex

Creators | Chris Roberson answers questions about his new digital comics enterprise, Monkeybrain, and his thoughts on DC Comics, which he recently left because he was uncomfortable with the company’s treatment of creators: “The simplest change that could be made at the Big Two would be for them to grandfather creator equity deals (that is, the payments that creators get when their characters appear in film, TV, toys, etc) back to the Golden Age creators. Then we would see fewer stories about the creators of beloved characters living in impoverished states in their later years, unable to afford health care, etc.” [Reddit]

Creators | Scott Snyder discusses his work on American Vampire and Batman, as well as his Image miniseries Severed, in an interview done at the Kapow comic convention. [Comics Anonymous]

Creators | Ed Piskor talks about working with Harvey Pekar and the fascination with phone phreaking that led to his graphic novel Wizzywig: “A big part of why I really started getting into hacking was to learn evil, nefarious, information. To become a criminal mastermind. As I became more and more involved, I learned that my perceptions were skewed because all I knew about this world was what was presented to me via mainstream media.” [PREVIEWSworld]

Comics | Robot 6 contributor Chris Mautner writes about the “spin-offs, retcons, makeovers and just plain strangeness” that Spider-Man has experienced over the years. [PennLive]

Commentary | The Daily Cross Hatch’s Brian Heater (whose Twitter feed is one of my favorites) has kicked off a monthly comics review column on BoingBoing. [BoingBoing]

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34 Comments

Even Stan had to go to court to get some money from the spiderman films. I thought Ditko came across as kind of a dick in that article. Which is a shame because I’ve actually heard he’s a pleasant guy in person from the few who get the chance.

interesting that Ditko given his rep for being reclusive even talked to the reporter and given how stan had to go to court to remind marvel about his clause that he gets share of royalties for the characters in other media not suprised steve is not getting movie royalties either. and given how all those who have gone to court to try and take back their rights to certain marvel characters. only to have Marvel win Jim is going to have a tough battle for Thanos though if that picture is indeed thanos before he became part of the Mu. then Jim has a shot.

Marvel should fix this Starlin problem before it gets out of hand. I respect Starlin’s position. But, for the sake of the fans who are eager to watch future Marvel films, this has to be resolved ASAP.

Scott Snyder, THE BEST BATMAN SCRIBE yet!

Simon DelMonte

July 5, 2012 at 8:08 am

Speaking as a publicist (albeit in non-profit), nothing makes me cringe more than seeing my efforts to serve as a go-between become the story. I find that many reporters who put in print how hard it is to get the story are often coming into the situation with an axe to grind. But then I also find that a lot of reporters, even the ones who give you positive coverage, think they are entitled to unfettered access to all people they want to interview, and that any effort by publicists to do a good job in presenting their clients in the best way possible somehow infringe on the freedom of the press. Then again, there is a long-time antagonism between PR people and reporters. Quite frankly, a lot of them hate us, and a lot us don’t like them.

It’s no wonder that Ditko doesn’t give interviews. Even when he could easily find people who would support any argument he has with Marvel.

Shouldn’t Starlin say “thank you” considering he’s getting money from the huge reprint numbers they’re doing of his work. I think a lot of fans are counting chickens before they hatch. even if the director likes him and with the mid credits cameo Thanos isn’t a lock for a sequel, it is Hollywood and things can change just that quickly. If Superman bombs, and Thor 2 doesn’t do as well as they hope they could suddenly decide people don’t want to see aliens anymore. (It’s happened before)

Shouldn’t Starlin say “thank you” considering he’s getting money from the huge reprint numbers they’re doing of his work

Do you personally thank your boss every payday…?

Killer Tomato

July 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

Calebs…this is totally different then a paycheck…Starlin was paid for his work….that was his paycheck, royalties is just bonus “free” money…and royalties are relatively new in comics, sadly, while I’m not sure, I’m doubtful thtat when Starlin was doing his mostvpopular works in the 80s that he had had any sort of royalty clause…tho I could of course be wrong…

And Marvel doesn’t have to reprint his work period…so yes, he should be thankful

Interestingly enough, I thought that Thanos [i]was[/i] a Jack Kirby creation until very recently. Since the movie, in fact, when I decided to actually wikipedia him.

An anecdote that is mentioned there that he indeed started out more like Metron, and someone suggested that “If you’re going to rip off the New Gods, do Darkseid”.

I don’t know how court proceedings in such cases go, but it could potentially open up an entirely different issue with Kirby’s heirs.

CaptainObvious

July 5, 2012 at 9:24 am

@Josh

So if you come across as a dick, you forfeit all your creator’s rights?

Otherwise, your “dick” commentary is utterly and completely irrelevant

CaptainObvious

July 5, 2012 at 9:27 am

@Tomato

If you think royalties are free money then you have absolutely no grasp on the issues being discussed here

I didn’t say a damn thing about creators rights. Just saying the article makes him look like a jerk when in reality he probably isn’t. You seem like you’re just looking for someone to argue with, I got nothing but love bro.

But yes, being nice to people helps in a court battle as it does anywhere else in life. The nicer you are, the more people are willing to help you get what you want.

These are things im tired of hearing about on comics websites:
*Tim Marchman talking comics.
*Opinion pages and not actual reporting.
*Creators rights and them getting a raw deal. Its unfortunate but they knew how it was gonna play out when they took the job.
*Alan Moore.
*Cynicism and snark over projects that haven’t even came out yet.
Maybe i just need to take some time off from the internet :)

Shouldn’t Starlin say “thank you” considering he’s getting money from the huge reprint numbers they’re doing of his work.

________________________________

No, because Marvel (when Quesada was still EIC) has blacklusted Starlin from ever doing work for them. IIRC, according to Starlin, when he was looking for work from Marvel back in 2009, Marvel told him that he had a better chance of winning the lotto then working for Marvel ever again. So this is clearly a case where Starlin can and should give Marvel (or at least Quesada and the current editorial regime) the finger both figuratively and literally.

I don’t know if that’s true Blade. I remember they had a falling out regarding the Thanos: The End and a scene that heavily hints at comparisons between Galactus and the us military but I don’t know if it got that heated.

Unfortunately Starlin doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The work for hire agreement is on the pay check! He signs the pay check to get paid for a script and/or a page of art and he sells his intellectual property as well. And just like Gary Friedrich, Disney/Marvel can counter sue him for all he’s done with Thanos and the like without their permission.

Creators HAVE to attack the work for hire agreements first! Only by getting them to be declared unlawful can they have any hope to reclaim rights to their ip.

As for anyone who thinks creators should just shut-up and be grateful- I hope that one day you are in the same position as Jim and Gary, then we’ll see if you can just shut-up and be grateful.

you can’t compare Gary to Starlin because for one Gary wasn’t just selling sketches he was selling actual copy written images. (and according to Quesada Marvel never actually made him pay a dime of that settlement so someone in that equation is lying, I honestly don’t know who) and Gary actually did create ghost rider as a work for hirer project (if he even acutally is the sole creator of ghost rider which some have said he wasn’t)

Jim actually does have a leg to stand on because he has proof he created Thanos before he worked for marvel so technically the creation of Thanos is not work for hirer. It’s just like the case that the Superman guys have except Starlin is being just a bit smarter than they were (he has the advantage of learning from others mistakes)

CaptainObvious

July 5, 2012 at 10:51 am

@Frem

That is the vibe that I got from Starlin’s comments above – that he may be trying to attack the work-for-hire contracts in relation to how much money the movies are generating from these properties

Might be a tall order. But, not getting your artwork returned was standard practice until Neal Adams and others got it changed

But, the George Carlin in me knows that the U.S. courts ALWAYS rule in favor of capitalism and big business

I think Starlin might be implying that Thanos doesn’t exist under a work-for-hire agreement as Marvel saw it in his portfolio BEFORE they ever hired him, meaning it would be more of a transfer-of-rights issue. If that’s the case then Marvel would be in a bit of a legal issue, one which Starlin seems willing to resolve amicably if they so choose.

Kurt Busiek posted about this recently on either CBR or The Beat so give that a read as I’m sure he’s much more knowledgeable than any of us on these issues.

Paul Garcia sez…
“Marvel should fix this Starlin problem before it gets out of hand.”

“Fix the Starlin problem”?

What would you suggest?
Have him “taken out” CIA-style?

I thought comics fans LIKED comics creators!

Paul Garcia also sez…
“But, for the sake of the fans who are eager to watch future Marvel films, this has to be resolved ASAP.”

What about the sake of Jim Starlin?

From what I’ve read, it’s not just that Starlin has proof that he created Thanos prior to working for Marvel, it’s that Marvel has, so far, been unable to produce any contracts or records from the period that would prove that they purchased the character. If Marvel can’t produce the proper paperwork, they may be in trouble.

Reading the article on Steve Ditko, I can’t help but think he might have some kind of functional autism or other minor disorder that hadn’t even been discovered back when he was growing up. He seems very impatient with people and prone to quick judgment. I actually admire that he stands by his principles rather than pushing for the big bucks and paydays and materialism that today’s society is so built on, but at the same time I feel bad that he lives what seems such a solitary life. The article mentions no wife or children or family. I bet you if he did have kids those SpiderMan pages would not be lying around and someone would have gone to court to get him royalties on the movies.

I can understand his frustration with Stan “considering” him to be co-creator of SpiderMan. It seems like the only thing kept from Lee’s original idea was the spider powers. That being said, I’m not a fan of Stan Lee.

Ger-
I find it hard to believe the Ditko, a huge devotee of Ayn Rand, came up with the phrase”with great power comes great responsibility”

@Talmidge: “Shouldn’t Starlin say “thank you” considering he’s getting money from the huge reprint numbers they’re doing of his work.”

What reprints are there that he’s getting royalties on?

Last I heard they were focusing on his work from the 1970’s. No royalties there.

@Fremgen: “Unfortunately Starlin doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The work for hire agreement is on the pay check!”

Even assuming Starlin DID sign a back-of-the-check contract — and do you have any hard evidence that he did? — it doesn’t matter. The specific stories and art he created using Thanos may have been work-for-hire, but if he created Thanos BEFORE he did any work for Marvel, then Thanos the character was not created under a work-for-hire arrangement. You cannot make a thing retroactively work-for-hire; it either is or it isn’t.

He may have SOLD Thanos to Marvel, but that doesn’t mean it was work-for-hire — indeed, it would explicitly mean it was NOT work-for-hire, because you can’t sell something that isn’t yours in the first place.

@BradRz

“From what I’ve read, it’s not just that Starlin has proof that he created Thanos prior to working for Marvel, it’s that Marvel has, so far, been unable to produce any contracts or records from the period that would prove that they purchased the character. If Marvel can’t produce the proper paperwork, they may be in trouble.”

Its actually just the opposite. If Marvel had a work-for-hire agreement with Starlin and Starlin used Thanos as part of that agreement, it would be up to Starlin to prove that ownership of Thanos changed hands under different terms(similar to Siegel and Shuster selling Superman). If Starlin pursued this, Marvel could also counterclaim that Starlin violated the terms of their agreement and seek compensation. In a court of law, the paper trail rules, everything else is just conjecture.

Talmidge
July 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

I don’t know if that’s true Blade. I remember they had a falling out regarding the Thanos: The End and a scene that heavily hints at comparisons between Galactus and the us military but I don’t know if it got that heated.

_______________________________________________

It did get that heated and it had nothing to do with THANOS: THE END. Here’s what Starlin posted over on bleedingcool a few weeks ago in response to an article about a reprint of his past work being presented as some new work from Starlin.

Dear Bleeding Cool,

This article has given some the impression that I am working again at Marvel. I’m now getting flooded with e-mails, asking about this. Let me make it clear that I am not working for Marvel or have any plans or intention of doing so. Nor does Marvel wish me to work for them. Back in 2009, when I then sought employment from Marvel, I was informed that I had a better chance of winning the lottery than I had of ever getting work from Marvel again. Please be clearer in your reporting in the futur

Here’s the link to the article/thread where Starlin posted his comment. You have to scroll down to read Starlin’s post.

http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/marvel-comics/59549-marvel-reprints-two-jim-starlin-thanos-stories-comic-form-september.html

And here’s a link to a youtube interview where Starlin explains why he lefy Marvel several years ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDYJ65JUYzI&feature=related

@Rubicon: But so far Starlin’s the one who’s produced evidence and Marvel isn’t.

If Marvel can’t produce a contract, then Marvel is indeed in trouble.

Marvel managed to win the Kirby case without producing any contracts from the time of his original work, but that was because the Kirby heirs couldn’t produce any evidence that he had created characters on spec and then sold them to Marvel.

From Starlin’s evidence it seems clear that Thanos was not created for-hire. And if Marvel can’t produce evidence that there was a transfer of rights, then Marvel may be in trouble.

There’s another possibility: that Starlin DID sell Thanos to Marvel, and Marvel owns Thanos, for now. But as Busiek notes in the Beat thread, that would still mean Starlin (or his statutory heirs, should he die before then) will have the right to reclaim him in 2029, and it would probably be in Marvel’s best interest to cut him a deal now to get him to agree not to do that.

Okay, my thoughts on a few of the news bites here:
-The brewing “Thanos War”: Please, please, PLEASE, someone write to Marvel and convince them to do something (good and not counterproductive) before they waste more money fighting endless and pointless legal wars.
-The Steve Ditko thing: THAT’S who Steve Ditko looks like?? I have never seen his (younger) face before now (and I still havent seen his current face).
-Chris Roberson interview: His idea of grandfathered-in creator equity deals are exactly what I have been advocating for for the past couple of years. I would like to meet him at some point, ask him a bit more about this–I hope he shows up at Emerald City Comic-Con next year….

@Ger

I think your randomly diagnosing someone via the Internet with a mental disorder because they have principles that they live by is a far worse mental disease than any you could arbitrarily ascribe to Ditko

Dave Anderson

July 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm

There’s nothing wrong with comic writers or artists geting the best deal they can now and pushing for a better deal later. You gotta work and get the best pay you can, especially if you have a family to support.

There’s a fine American tradition of accepting employment, but pushing your employer (some times impolitely) for something better. It’s why we all have weekends, paid holidays, workplace safety regulations, etc. etc. and why comic writers and artists get royalties, creator credits, etc.

@talmidge –
“I find it hard to believe the Ditko, a huge devotee of Ayn Rand, came up with the phrase”with great power comes great responsibility””

That’s not the creation. That’s writing after the creation. It’s a catchphrase that really caught on. Did Chris Claremont create Wolverine because he came up with the slogan “I’m the best there is at what I do.” Len Wein created Wolverine but did he make him the immense over-utilized popular comic star that he is today? Is Len Wein responsible for Wolverine being popular enough to headline movies?

So at the creation of SpiderMan, Lee came up with the powers and Ditko came up with the look and the character’s secret identity and background. That’s more than “considered” joint creation -it’s a complete collaboration. Especially in the comics medium -the visual is every bit as important as the idea. Maybe the original idea started with Lee but the actual result was them both.

I admire the people who created these characters… but the ongoing creation, and often popularity, is a group effort by all of the creators who have worked on them.

@Thad

Marvel has the right to reasonably expect its employees and contractors to abide by the terms of their agreements. It’s not Marvel’s responsibility to check every notebook and and piece of art a creator’s had since childhood to make sure they don’t introduce something created pre-contract while the creator is employed. Meaning all work turned in by Starlin was expected to be work for hire. That will stand up in any court in the land. If Starlin would now claim that he used something that was outside the terms of the deal, that could be considered violating terms of the agreement and Marvel could enter a counterclaim for damages. A person can’t use use the fact that that they broke/violated an agreement to benefit themselves in court. That piece of artwork offers no solid proof whatsoever. All that’s been shown is an undated piece of artwork that features Iron Man(a Marvel property) and any halfway decent lawyer would just argue it was created after he was hired. Until a bill of sale for the character is produced, all that matters are the terms of the work-for-hire agreement. That can’t be overruled by a he said/they said argument.

That said, there has been no indication of any kind of legal action by any party so this entire debate is moot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jim Starlin, but he’s no Jack Kirby. His argument won’t hold any kind of legal weight. It doesn’t matter when he sketched the character, he put Thanos in a Marvel comic work for hire. End of story.

I’d like to suggest a link to you, and I’d appreciate Robot 6 coverage. It’s a look at Batman and a comparison to Spider-Man:

http://berkeleyplaceblog.com/2012/07/05/scott-snyder-grant-morrisons-heir-apparent/

who cares bendis is writing him now

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