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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Truth and Actual Justice -- Amazing news on the Superman legal front. Here's good commentary from:

* Christopher Butcher

* Uncivil Society

Expect tons more from everyone on Monday.

My take is basically that, contracts and legal niceties aside, whenever a company or corporation benefits from its employees' or contractors' work in a way that neither party could have anticipated, and which results in unimagined and unimaginable magnitudes of revenue for the company or corporation, it's not just the ethical thing to do to recognize the actual creators of the unexpected windfall; it's good business. A large reason why DC and Marvel have been so creatively bankrupt for decades (save the occasional, almost accidental Moores and Morrisons) is because generations of creators have now seen that there's no real reason to give your creative best when working-for-hire in the virtual superhero sweatshops.

This is how we have ended up with truly, indisputably shit superhero writers like Loeb, Johns, Bendis, Straczynski and the rest of the Fan Fiction Age of Superhero Comics seen as visionaries, when they are just enthusiastic typists exercising wrongheaded stewardship of international storytelling treasures on a massive, tragic scale.

In the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s, the ideas good and bad flew fast and furious, a decades-long surge of new characters, settings and tropes that endured for years and years and years. In the 1970s and '80s, when creators saw how criminally awful people like Siegel and Shuster and Simon and Kirby were ultimately (mis-)treated by the companies they allowed to exist and thrive in the first place, the floodwaters of creativity receded to a trickle of new ideas. How many enduring characters have been created, work-for-hire, at Marvel and DC since 1975? Elektra comes to mind -- along with Marvel's ultimately going back on any promises they made to her creator, Frank Miller. How many successful superhero movies are being made about characters created work-for-hire in the past thirty years? Face it, the good superhero ideas were virtually all created by writers and artists who got the shaft from the corporations they made the mistake of trusting with their best interests, their livelihoods, their very ability to feed their families.

So, I don't know exactly what the consequences of this decision are, but it can only be seen as a landmark day for creators rights, and a shot across the bow to two arrogant, shortsighted corporations that, if they had better treated the people that created the entire foundations of their existence, would be far better off these days and facing far less ill-will, among intelligent readers, among the creative community, and inside the legal system, which has finally meted out a little truth and justice in a seemingly never-ending battle.



Blogger MrCynical said...

Just letting you know I’ve included a link to your commentary at my own blog


29 March, 2008 20:44  
Blogger Roger Green said...

As have I, but not to Ramblin', but to the OTHER one: http://blogs.timesunion.com/rogergreen/?p=34

30 March, 2008 07:03  
Blogger Jesse Farley said...

Thanks for finally articulating thoughts I've had about the big 2 lately the writing is really bad, you are surely right about no new characters maybe Venom I can,t recall any good ones dead pool is kinda cool I guess, not really.

red fox

31 March, 2008 00:11  
Blogger Witts said...


I am admittedly (and as you will soon see) NOT a comics historian, just a 20+ year collector who has taken some random mental notes. So bear that in mind - what follows is personal opinion, not any knowledge of history. Plus i don't want to piss off someone who i love reading. Don't be pissed off. We can go out and have a pint and laugh about it later.

However... i am going to not-quite-disagree with you on a couple of points.

1 - "they allowed to exist and thrive in the first place": i think that this is certainly a defensible position, and one that i agree with (the nature of work-for-hire and many other industries?), but i don't think we should forget that it was a two-way agreement. Couldn't we make the argument that the companies allowed the creators not only to feed their families, but a creative avenue? I full agree that employers have, and do abuse their positions of power (and outright lie, break contracts, etc.), but "allow to exist" seems a bit strong from my perspective.

2 - "How many successful superhero movies are being made about characters created work-for-hire in the past thirty years?" This one has bothered me on and off for years. Why is this, really? I don't think i can agree with your argument that it is due to creators realizing that their employers are shafting them with their contracts. Certainly this seems to be a good part of the equation - its not rare for me to be lukewarm about a creator's mainstream work and LOVE their independent or self-published work. I think what comes to mind is that there are many other differences between the 30s-60s and the 70s on. Radio, television, advertising, circulation #s, paper costs, etc... culture and the economy in general have changed dramatically enough that if i were smarter and more well versed, i may be able to make a case for other factors contributing substantially to the lack of recent iconic characters.

Or i may just be full of it.

Anyways, good post, and food for thought. Thanks,


31 March, 2008 22:33  
Blogger Roger Green said...

Witts- Except these ripoffs happen too frequently, not just in art but in music as well.
I just read Evanier's book on Kirby, and it's clear that the amount of work that went into those creations was not reflected in his compensation. I'm certainly familiar with the "work-for-hire" provision of the copyright law (I'm a librarian), and the publisher did provide the printing press, but my, oh my, the creativity for those characters was there irrespective of the publisher. Jerry and Joe brought Superman to Detective Comics. And decency should win out; the Superman creators not did not get rich, they could barely survive sometimes.

08 April, 2008 12:38  

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