Peter's Comic Book Ramblings

Monday, April 16, 2007

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT ISN'T DUE!

As my last post states, I'm finally reading DC's One Year Later labeled books. I'm into month three of the thematic umbrella and I noticed something quite wonderful.

DC does a great job of listing "Created by..." credits.

The obvious and long-running Created by... credits include: Superman by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, Batman by Bob Kane and Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston. Another frequent credit goes to Jack Kirby whether it's for the Demon or even the recent OMAC series. And Warlord by Mike Grell has appeared even in his original series.

But here were a few surprises: Firestorm created by Gerry Conway & Al Milgrom; Aquaman created by Paul Norris; Omega Men created by Marv Wolfman & Joe Staton; the Weird created by Jim Starlin & Bernie Wrightson and Checkmate created by Paul Kupperberg & Steve Erwin. While these credits may have appeared in other comics of the same title years back, the fact that DC still gives credit where credit is due is pretty amazing.

Now, surely some of these are contractual obligations. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman - you know these were forged in deals (good or bad) made with the actual creators. The same could be said of Warlord, Omega Men and the Weird. I have yet to read anywhere if "Created by Jack Kirby" is anything more than honestly acknowledging a master so this too could have contractual history. I've seen the Checkmate one before. But the Aquaman and Firestorm credits seem completely new. It makes me wonder if I'm missing some from the few DC books I don't read. Does this mean they have to pay royalties for the continued use of these characters? Or are they simply showing their readers that DC understands that their characters have a lineage?

I REALLY enjoy seeing the credits and it makes me wonder why Marvel doesn't do the same. They toyed with the idea for a moment or two several years back. I can remember some J.M. Straczynski-penned Amazing Spider-Man comics that had "Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko". But beyond that, I don't think any other credit has lasted. Even the "Stan Lee Presents..." title intro has disappeared.

So it makes me wonder a few things.

Are all the DC credits contractual obligations? Are some of them just courtesy? And if so, shouldn't titles like Birds of Prey & Shadowpact, as a concept, be easy to credit? If Jack Knight & Will Payton (and not "Starman") can be credited to their respective creators, can't the opposite be true for a character such as Nightwing (created by Marv Wolfman & George Perez even if Robin/Dick Grayson was created by Bob Kane and/or Jerry Robinson). What about the female Manhunter?
Has the "bad blood" over the years between Marvel and Stan Lee prompted the removal of his ever present greeting? By not even listing credits as a gesture of history, is Marvel trying to steer clear of any potential ownership claims? Why shouldn't Thunderbolts be credited to Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley? Why isn't Dr. Strange, Thor, Hulk, the Avengers, X-Men, Iron Man, etc. listed as "Created by Stan Lee &...". Or Moon Knight. Or Nova. Or Spider-Woman.

I understand there are legal issues that keep all this at a distance and that sometimes creator credits are lost to time. But as a reader of comics and someone who enjoys comic history, the very glaring omission of creator credits on Marvel's part comes across as an "I'm just covering my rear" move.

Marvel may not have created the basic concept of continuity, but they did put faces and nicknames and personalitites to their creators through lettercolumns, bulletins and even in their own comic stories. Marvel readers knew the creators alongside the creations. Jim Shooter fought hard for certain creator rights. And it's no secret that the current Marvel regime is all about marketing their creative teams alongside if not sometimes before their projects.

But there's something very off when even the current publisher of Marvel gets listed in every Marvel comic in the credit box but a simple "Created by..." blurb is non-existent. I want to know who created these characters. I want new readers to know. It's a sign of respect and history. It should be an honor to give credit to those legendary creators who formed the Marvel Universe.

And, considering the amazing success Marvel has had over the last year with characters that have survived for decades, this is a case of credit where credit is very much due.

4 Comments:

  • I don't know how Marvel works things (well, I *do*, but it's all hearsay since I never really worked for Marvel except on CRAZY Magazine and a couple of random stories years and years ago), but DC's pretty good about giving credit where it's due and, yes, it is, 100% contractual. Using the line "created by" implies certain things under the law, so you can BET that DC's going to have a contract with the "creator" that spells out exactly what those things are and who gets which of 'em. (Although, technically, in all but creator-owned properties, DC is the *legal* creator of the work; the writer/artist "creator" is an individual contracted by DC to write and/or draw as work-made-for-hire.)

    For instance, the "Created by" credit on Checkmate was spelled out in the original contract I signed with DC when I created the series. Under the contract, I (and Steve Erwin) receive a credit whenever the feature appears in its own title or logo'ed feature, whether we work on it or not. We also received a set portion of licensing fees (TV/movie sales, action figures, novelizations, etc....I got some surprisingly healthy checks from the two little Checkmate HeroClix figures) and sales of any Checkmate comic (again, I've received royalty checks for the new series and am happily anticipating receiving loot for the TPB that just came out for years to come). I also see royalties whenever anything is reprinted overseas; for years, I made surprisingly good money off of Arion Lord of Atlantis in the former-Soviet bloc countries; I have the same creator & rotalty deal on Arion, as well as all the characters I created while at DC. In fact, in the early 90s, I was sent a stack of agreements, covering characters I'd done since the mid-70s; DC offering the deal before I even thought to ask for it.

    The Paul Norris/Aquaman credit is new (granted, I'm sure, after DC was certain its ownership of the character was on solid ground); the Batman deal has been in place since Day 1-Bob Kane had a smart father who got a good lawyer to write the contract for his son; the Siegel & Shuster credit dates back to the late-70s deal in which DC gave them pensions, medical coverage, and, of course, credit.

    There are a few dozen ways and reasons credit is given...and many where it's against the company's interest to do so. But I always figured I went in knowing what the rules of the game were and it was my responsibility to take a deal or not and protect my interests just as the company was protecting theirs.

    Paul Kupperberg

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 17, 2007 at 10:29 AM  

  • Paul, Thanks for all that info! As the trade market expands, it's great to hear that a creator can benefit on some level. I can certainly understand that not every creation is as easily defined, but perhaps creators would be more willing to give up some of their creations or get in on the ground floor of new works at Marvel or DC if they know they have the potential to earn royalties even years after they are off of a project.

    Again - thank you for your response!

    By Blogger Peter, At April 17, 2007 at 2:31 PM  

  • The "Stan Lee Presents..." credit disappeared pretty early in the Jemas/Quesada regime, as I recall. I think it may have even been replaced with "Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada Present... ," but I could be mistaken there. I was never sure of the why or how, but I always sort of assumed it was part of the deal that named Stan the Chairman Emeritus and allowed him to go do his DC book. But I could be mistaken there, too.

    By Blogger Bill D., At April 19, 2007 at 7:55 PM  

  • I dunno what happened to the Stan Lee Presents... credit and I used to do credits! I did when I started lettering, but eventually it just phased out. I know the Bill Jemes - President didn't show up until some guy named Jemas did.

    --Randy

    By Blogger RandyG, At May 4, 2007 at 3:40 PM  

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