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Marionette said on May 25th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I know it’s picky, but it irritates me when I see urban myths perpetuated. The Disney mural thing you reference wasn’t quite as simple as you suggest. In fact it would probably never have received any publicity if rivals Universal hadn’t made a big deal out of it. More info here: http://www.snopes.com/disney/wdco/daycare.asp

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Words have actual meanings. Cheating people means promising to do something for them in exchange for whatever they’re doing for you, and then not doing it. Doing exactly what you promised is not cheating.

@Oddstar5, I would like to introduce you to the concept of the Faustian bargain.

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[…] provide a rebuttal of Kurtz’s arguments. One valiant attempt to refute Kurtz has appeared (Scott Kurtz is still Scott Kurtz) but I think even that writer would agree that he did not cover all of Kurtz’s points. Not […]

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@Burke- a Faustian bargain suggests some sort of active manipulation to screw over someone. At the time Kirby et al are creating many of these characters they had no idea how successful they’d be and in fact as the Kirby vs Goliath article notes, most of these guys had the idea their work did belong to Marvel, they just hated putting it into writing.

And as for the original artwork thing, I admit that’s strange to me. If I commission a portrait from an artist, does the artist end up owning all the stages before the one I put on my wall?

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Candlejack said on May 26th, 2012 at 1:02 pm

A portrait is a poor analogy, because most of the work that goes into that is right there on the canvas you’ve purchased. Of course the artist can’t keep any stage of the work. However, if he does sketches off to the side of what the finished portrait might look like, makes false starts, or even completes a whole painting either you or he isn’t happy with, you don’t get any of those. You get the finished portrait you commissioned.

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@Jason: You make a fair point, in regard to the situation Kirby et al faced and understood at the time. I was speaking more to the “doing exactly what you promised is not cheating” claim, trying to point out that it’s very easy to do exactly what one has promised in a dishonest and ultimately harmful way, which does not make keeping that promise in that manner right or acceptable.

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The thing you have to understand about the context of the times: Kirby and the others were artists struggling to make a living in a field that wasn’t taken seriously, one that was often overseen by ACTUAL GANGSTERS. They had no leverage. None. Zip. Zilch. They went in with nothing but their talent; they couldn’t afford lawyers or agents, and there was certainly no union for comic creators. The ball was 100% in the publishers’ court if they even wanted to keep drawing a paycheck. To make any kind of “deal” for themselves they would have had to be REMARKABLY canny–Bob Kane did OK, though he sold pretty much everyone else out to get there (and was the first to sabotage a possible cartoonists/comics artists’ union). They would have had to fight their asses off over characters that, at the time, seemed like a cheap, disposable fad. In other words, they would have had to have been AMAZINGLY foresighted.

The people saying “Well, they signed a contract, case closed” are acting like this was a good faith agreement between equals, when it wasn’t. It was like a drowning man being told to sign a 100-page contract full of fine print before anyone would toss them a life preserver. It was extortion by any measure. Kirby could have indeed decided not to sign on with Marvel’s unfair policies, and proceeded to starve to death. Or maybe he would have gone on to become successful in another field (as he did much later in life), which would have meant we would never have gotten all these awesome comics.

Any remotely wide view of the subject makes it PRETTY FUCKING CLEAR that Kirby got screwed over, fine print or legal technicalities aside. (Need I remind you that the author of this article is a fucking LAWYER?)

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maybe this was the case the when Kirby helped create characters in the 40’s. In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s at least(when he signed some of these contracts) DC was bought by a major corporation, he did animation work totally separate from comic companies, and then self-publishing became big, and there are still Kirby characters out there that do not belong to the big two. He didn’t get every dime he theoretically could have, but that is not the same as being screwed over in my eyes.

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I’m not even clear on what you’re talking about. My point is that major corporations have way more clout than artists who are trying to break in (or even just “continue working”) and so the fact that they signed a contract early in their careers means less than nothing. If every comics company makes their new employees sign a contract that says “We now own everything you make forever”, and if you say “no” you’re simply not going to work in the comics industry, how on Earth is that fair? It means there’s literally no way to profit fairly from your creations in the comics industry.

I love your spin there. “Maybe Kirby didn’t make every dime he theoretically could have…” Marvel has made BILLIONS off of Kirby’s creations. BILLIONS. No Kirby (or Stan Lee), no Marvel. There is literally no way they could have made these kinds of profits otherwise (Atlas/Timely was mostly a loss leader for Goodman publishing before FF #1). For that, Kirby was paid less than a middle manager working in a decent-sized bank. It’s an obvious travesty of justice to anyone who isn’t willing to bend over backwards to make excuses for Marvel.

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Most indie superhero books (and there are so very many of them) read like DC/Marvel fanfic with the labels buffed off. (This isn’t to say that many of those books aren’t excellent. There are some true gems in there.

Slightly off topic, but I take that as you can recommend some?

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Prankster- writers don’t sign a contract that say we own everything you create forever. They sign a contract that says “we own what you create while we’re giving you a paycheck.”

But I think we’re assuming two different things here. You’re talking like most comic characters are Superman. Writer creates them, goes to a company he doesn’t already work for and pitches the idea. I assume far more comic creations come from someone in management saying something like “Hey, that other company is doing something big with a superhero team, make me a superhero team,” to someone who already works for them

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@Jason: “writers don’t sign a contract that say we own everything you create forever. They sign a contract that says “we own what you create while we’re giving you a paycheck.””

I’m not sure who you’re referring to with that claim.

That’s not what Moore’s contract said; his contract said “We own what you create as long as it stays in print.”

And it’s not what Jack Kirby’s contract said, because Jack Kirby did not actually sign a contract prior to 1972.

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@Thad- I’m refering in general. To me the phrase “we own everything you you make forever,” suggests a claim on everything you’ll do. But that’s plainly not the case as writer move on to other companies or publish it themselves. Before Todd McFarlane created Spawn he worked for Marvel. Marvel has no claims on Spawn, because obviously their working relationship ended before Spawn was created.

And in this case, Moore theoretically getting the rights to Watchmen eventually, even if it is only theory, makes it better than the contract I’ve suggested

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highlyverbal said on May 30th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

What is the over/under on Jason convincingly defeating the strawperson he is currently struggling with?

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[…] Comics Journal recounts what Kirby went through just to get his original art back. MGK weighs in here. Unfortunately, as the judge in the case says, this isn’t about what’s fair, it’s […]

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[…] kerfuffle. A familiar one, when you spend some time around comic book folk. I got the hit off Mighty God King (by the by, this is a good time to mention you probably shouldn’t look here for any breaking […]

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Another Halocene Human said on June 17th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Wrong, Prankster. It has nothing to do with comics fans. Screenwriters are unionized. That is why they get paid. All of the creatives in Hollywood, including actors, used to get screwed regularly until they formed unions. Ditto for ball players. The “talent” despite being a non-commodity item, gets screwed when it’s them against a politically powerful plutocrat in an oligarchic industry.

The deal with authors is that there were traditionally a lot of different publishers. However, authors can and do get screwed on contracts with publishers. Authors selling their books are like non-RE professionals trying to sell in house in that they have to go through brokers who get a big cut and vary wildly in their honesty and competence but have no fiduciary duty towards the seller. (Or buyer.)

Nevertheless, the continued existence of competition in the publishing space means that some authors do get paid decent money (although the people I’m thinking of have primary jobs and the books are just mad money… hacks who live off their writing seem to gravitate towards cheap housing in tourist or rural communities where there are no jobs).

People who write articles for magazines can or could make a living (I guess now you sell to the online edition? wonder how much longer that will last) but even in the halcyon days they got screwed by magazine publishers regularly. Tough field.

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[…] as we all know, Scott Kurtz believes that thinking that Jack Kirby was screwed by Marvel and doing something about it is “…. (As Leonard Pierce pointed out, suggesting that people donate to charity the price of an Avengers […]

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Kurtz is right and mgk is wrong

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