February 12, 2012

Various Comic Creator Brouhaha

Spent a good chunk of last night recording the latest episode of Zone 4 (and if you haven't heard our current episode, please do so - Ron, Brant and I had a great conversation about Before Watchmen with the mighty Mike Luoma). But last night, I have to admit....I got to rant a little.

Because some of the creator-based news of the past week....well, has my blood boiling. I don't know what surprises me more - the negative unprofessional behavior of some of the parties involved, or the fact that some comic fans - much like people who enjoy The Big Bang Theory - are simply taking the wrong side of the issue.

(And I've already taken flack for not liking BBT on Facebook, but to summarize - yes, it's a popular show. But it's more of a network executive's idea of nerd/geek culture than it is an honest representation of nerd/geek culture. And people who claim that "if I don't like it I don't get it"....might I suggest The IT Crowd? But I digress...)

Let's look at the items of interest....shall we?

First, is the he said/he said that both John Rozum and Scott McDaniel provided when it came to Rozum's departure from Static Shock. Reading both men's accounts (where they seem to lay the blame onto the other person somewhat), one theme does occur - that book's editor had a very vague and unclear way of communicating his expectations. Hiring a writer solely because of his involvement in a particular line, and asking him to not write to his strengths seems...misguided. Having an artist co-plot a book without encouraging any kind of collaboration seems....misguided. Quite honestly, I didn't read Static Shock (With a diminished income, I'm relying heavily on word-of-mouth for comics), but this just seems like corporate mismanagement than creative disintegration.

It's also a little shocking to hear that Walking Dead's former artist is now suing writer Robert Kirkman for back royalties. Since I'm not a Walking Dead fan, my comments should be taken as "full of hot air". I really can't take sides in this issue....but something tells me this may be less about agreements that both men may have had and....again, company mismanagement. Studios have been notorious for creative accounting, and with rumors around Frank Darabount's dismissal from the show....it's not looking good. Not at all.

Gary Friedrich via Flickr
But the issue that gets me the most riled....involves the gentleman pictured on the right. His name is Gary Friedrich, and he was a writer for Marvel Comics in the 1970s. He also lives in Missouri.

Recently, he lost a court case involving some work he did for the company - work for which he felt he was not compensated adequately. Thanks to this case, he cannot claim the title of "creator" for a character....and in addition, the company decided to remind him that he owes them a hefty sum...and for some comics fans, it's all his fault because he "should have had a lawyer", he 'should have negotiated a better contract"....to which I say....

Learn a little history, pal.

Comics companies of today are not run - and are completely different entitles - than comics companies back then. (And as always, read Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones for insight into how comics companies have functioned - or not functioned - in the past) They weren't owned by huge conglomerates (and had Marvel not been owned by Disney - notorious for aggressively punishing potential copyright threats, this might not be an issue), and freelancers were often working by the skin of their teeth. Yes, Marvel has a vested interest in protecting its copyrights and trademarks....

....but to sink to the level of punishing a guy financially - a guy who's struggling to get by - is simply low and unconscionable. 

This isn't about a guy trying to cash in - he's barely making a living. He wanted to get fairly compensated for his past work. And here's where I'm going to appeal to you, the reader of this blog, to make a difference.

If this story ticks you off enough to boycott any Marvel movies and/or comics, take that money and donate it to Gary - Steve Niles has set up a page where you can do so. Please feel free to join the "Support Gary Friedrich" Facebook page for news and updates. In fact, why not organize a fundraiser for Mr. Friedrich, or an organization like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund?

Because as a great poet once remarked, "Let fury have the hour/anger can be power/do you know that you can use it?"

And for my Chicago comics pals - let's put on an event. Let's demonstrate that we have the coolest comic loving community on the planet, if for no other reason than it's the right thing to do.

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