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The co-creator of such characters as Firestorm, Killer Croc and Vixen, Conway has launched the Comics Equity Project, described as “a crowd-sourced effort to provide creators of characters for DC Comics since 1975 with equity participation contracts.”
As Conway explains in his introduction, since the mid-1970s, DC has offered creators “equity participation,” which means that with the appropriate paperwork, they can receive a share of the profits generated by the characters they created. That means if, say, Firestorm appears on a television show, in a video game or as part of an action-figure line, Conway will get a check for that. More specifically, when the Firestorm supporting character Felicity Smoak was introduced on The CW drama Arrow, the writer was eligible for compensation.
“[Y]ou may think this is only fair, but in the ’70s it hit the business like a revelation,” he writes. “And for more than thirty years it’s given quite a few creators an extra bit of income — in some cases, for some older creators, the only real income they receive from comics.”
However, there’s a catch: DC doesn’t track characters and match them with the appropriate writers and artists; it leaves that up to the creators themselves.
“It’s just too much work, and it requires a dedication and devotion to detail that only one group in the world has in abundant quantities: You, the fans,” Conway writes. “A personal note. I started this site because some of my fans alerted me to the use in the TV series Arrow of characters I co-created in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Without those fans I wouldn’t have known those characters were appearing. I wouldn’t have filed equity participation paperwork with DC. And neither I nor the artists I worked with would be eligible to receive money for the use of those characters. DC does not make payments retroactive. If a creator wants to claim equity participation in a character he or she co-created, they need to do so proactively.”
And that’s where Conway hopes fans can help, not only him but anyone else who has created characters for DC since 1975: “Go through your collection. Look for the first appearances of any character, major or minor, hero/villain/sidekick/bystander from the years 1975 on. Download and fill out the DC Comics Character Equity Request form […] and email it to the creators involved. Most creators have an active presence on the web, either on Facebook, or Twitter, or through their own web sites or fan pages. Reach out to them. Encourage them to file the paperwork you prepared with DC. Help them get their fair share.”