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  1. #1
    Fantastic Member
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    Default Roy Thomas Pens An Open Letter to DC About Creator Rights

    Hi everyone,

    Comic book legend Roy Thomas has penned the following open letter regarding creator rights and DC's failure to recognize his contributions that continue to make money for the company while basically leaving him out in the cold. It's an old story as far as the comic industry goes, but it is still heartbreaking. The letter is below (special thanks to John Cimino)...

    "We hear a lot these days about how the big companies are so much more enlightened about creator credits and payments. And it's probably true, to a certain extent. Certainly, despite no situation ever being perfect from any person's POV, I've been pleased with my relationship with Marvel for the past half decade or so, whether or not I was receiving any writing assignments from them at the time. After all, times change... wheels move on, and all that.

    Unfortunately, I'm finally forced to admit that my relationship with DC Comics (or DC Entertainment, I supposed, nowadays) is a puzzle to me. Yes, I receive small to medium payments from time to time for the reprinting of comics I wrote for them mostly in the 1980s, and I'm please to write the occasional introduction for a reprint volume (and seem to have a decent enough relationship with that department, at least to date). However, DC continues to stonewall me on one or two of the most important co-creations I devised for them during the 80s. Mainly, Artemis and Hazard, who were introduced in INFINITY, INC. #34 (Jan. 1987), as co-created by my wife Dann and myself and penciler Todd McFarlane.

    When these characters began to appear in TV series--Hazard live-action in "The Flash" and Artemis in the animated "Young Justice," I contacted the proper people at DC to inquire about what payment I could expect--and was informed that these characters did not count as "my" co-creations (or, I assume, Todd's), since Hazard is the daughter of the Golden Age Gambler villain, and Artemis (aka Artemis Crock), the daughter of the Golden Age Huntress and Sportsmaster villains. I was, quite frankly, stupefied. After all, Hazard has virtually nothing in common with her father except what seeps through in word balloons: she has the super-power of luck (he had no super-power at all, was simply a guy who using gambling gimmicks and dressed like Colonel Sanders), is female instead of male, and has an entirely different name.

    The same is true, of course, of Artemis. Oh, I suppose the original Huntress may have used bows and arrows on occasion back in the Wildcat stories, but she was not primarily an archer and had a different name. She has even less in common with her father, the Sportsmaster.

    Yet, there it was on the cartoons in which Artemis appeared: creative credits for virtually every other member of the team, but none for Artemis... as if she just appeared out of nowhere, instead of out of the pages of INFINITY, INC. #34. (Lately, DC has renamed her "Tigress," but that doesn't change the basic character... simply overprints onto her the name that, in a late-80s issue of YOUNG ALL-STARS (a predecessor of "Young Justice"), I gave to her mother, the Huntress, when she was a teenager not yet turned completely outlaw.

    When I opined that DC was hiding behind a technicality on both characters, offense seems to have been taken. I was told: Why, it's just their policy! As if somehow the institution and defense of a dumb and unfair policy was some kind of explanation.

    Eventually, with some fanfare, somebody decided to give me some sort of non-required "bonus" or some such thing for the use of Hazard in the live-action TV... but my repeated inquiries concerning money and credit for Artemis (and/or the Tigress character she has been rechristened) have been met with silence. I suppose the idea is that, eventually, I will go away and stop bothering those paragons of policy. Well, they're probably right. There's some principle at stake here, and perhaps a bit of money... but I'm doing well enough between my other work, Marvel payments, and social security that I'm hardly going to reduced to selling apples on the local street corner if DC continues its unenlightened policy of denying credit to the creators of a character who has proven quite popular in animated TV.

    But you know me... I'm not the type to go quietly into the night. Besides, as long as DC Entertainment continues to deny me payment and credit for one of my co-creations (just as they did for years to Tony Isabella before FINALLY admitting, well, yes, maybe he HAD created Black Lightning after all), there is absolutely nothing "good" about DC's policy. It is about as transparent a credit denial as one can imagine... and hiding behind the genes of the Gambler, Sportsmaster, and Huntress doesn't make it any better. As far as I'm concerned, they should be ashamed of themselves... but instead they're probably treating themselves to a pizza with the money that would've come my way.

    Hi, Jerry and Joe--and H.G. Peter. The more things change, the more, it seems, they stay the same."

    Roy Thomas
    Last edited by Stingo; 04-18-2019 at 11:56 AM.

  2. #2
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    Though there is another post or two on the boards now about this, thought I'd update this with the first bit of comics media attention this subject has gotten.
    https://www.bleedingcool.com/2019/04...ing-whats-due/

  3. #3
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    DC sucks for doing this to a legend. Can you imagine what they do to less accomplished talent?

  4. #4
    Moderator Frontier's Avatar
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    This reminds me of when Gerry Conway brought up how he wasn't getting anything for DC using Killer Frost, and maybe Firestorm? I know there were some characters he wasn't getting any royalties from.

    Is Geoff Johns still in a position to deal with this stuff?

  5. #5
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    I wish we could name and shame the individuals who make these decisions instead of saying "DC." DC doesn't do anything, it's a legal fiction. Corporations are not people, but because they are perceived as acting like people, the actual human beings can hide behind the legal fiction.

    In point of fact, someone has to make the decision for the company that this is what they are going to do. The buck has to stop somewhere.

    This is why you can have different decisions on rights coming from different departments. Maybe the CW wants to compensate creators for their contributions and they see the benefit in doing so. But maybe the animation company doesn't want to give an inch on royalties.

    All of these people have names--they should really be identified and made to answer for their decisions. Poor Johnny DC, what did he ever do to hurt anybody--he's just a drawing.

  6. #6
    Three Legged Member married guy's Avatar
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    Sad to hear that creators are STILL getting screwed over by companies.
    The royalties they pay to creators as a general rule, pales in comparison to the money generated by TV shows (through advertising, merchandising etc) and films.
    Why is doing the right thing SUCH a chore to these arseholes?
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  7. #7
    The Fastest Post Alive! Buried Alien's Avatar
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    On the Marvel Forum, we've got a post notifying fans of a GoFundMe page for Bronze Age Marvel writer Bill Mantlo, who is desperately short of funds (and suffering permanent brain damage since being stricken by a hit-and-run driver back in 1992) despite being the creator of Rocket Raccoon, a Marvel character who has really taken off in recent years due to the movies.

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  8. #8
    Mighty Member C_Miller's Avatar
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    A few years ago, I applied for a job at DC Entertainment to work in their archive department to track characters with a specific focus on first appearances and creative teams and what not. I'm kind of glad I didn't get it, as I feel like part of my job would be to find these technicalities. As much as I would have enjoyed working around these characters, I can't say that being part of a system to exploit creators would have been my idea of a good time.

  9. #9
    Three Legged Member married guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buried Alien View Post
    On the Marvel Forum, we've got a post notifying fans of a GoFundMe page for Bronze Age Marvel writer Bill Mantlo, who is desperately short of funds (and suffering permanent brain damage since being stricken by a hit-and-run driver back in 1992) despite being the creator of Rocket Raccoon, a Marvel character who has really taken off in recent years due to the movies.

    Buried Alien (The Fastest Post Alive!)
    I knew he was struggling, but didn't know about the GoFundMe page.
    Now ask yourself, how does the person who decides this stuff sleep at night?
    Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2 made what? A billion dollars?
    Even if 10% of that ends up profit, why in God's name can't they reach out and look after the guy who helped create this money stream??

    I bet you the actors playing these characters wouldn't know about it. I'd like to think someone like Bradley Cooper could flex his muscle a little and get things done on this front.
    "My name is Wally West. I'm the fastest man alive!"
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  10. #10
    Mighty Member 9th.'s Avatar
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    Oh that's foul

  11. #11
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    The Big Two wonder why tons of writers are working for indies....

  12. #12
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    Steve Englehart & Joe Staton are in a similar situation with Guy Gardner. Had they simply created a new, more violent and obnoxious character named Iron Lantern, they would get royalties for creating him, but since they rebuilt the character from scratch using an older character created by Broome & Kane under old work for hire contracts, they get nothing.

    It's in DC's best interests to play fair with everyone working for them, otherwise they aren't going to attract worthy new talent.

  13. #13
    Incredible Member Robanker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bored at 3:00AM View Post
    Steve Englehart & Joe Staton are in a similar situation with Guy Gardner. Had they simply created a new, more violent and obnoxious character named Iron Lantern, they would get royalties for creating him, but since they rebuilt the character from scratch using an older character created by Broome & Kane under old work for hire contracts, they get nothing.

    It's in DC's best interests to play fair with everyone working for them, otherwise they aren't going to attract worthy new talent.
    Quote Originally Posted by jetengine View Post
    The Big Two wonder why tons of writers are working for indies....
    Real shame that the company that publishes superheroes who fight for truth, justice and the well-being of people in need turns around and treats their contractors and employees this way. Truly shameful, but then again, Berganza worked there for how long?

    DC needs a pretty substantial purge from top-to-bottom and restructure/reexamine their policies if they want to attract top-quality creators and do right by them. What a shame.

  14. #14
    Fantastic Member Vampire Savior's Avatar
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    What were the conditions of the contract he signed when he decided to freelance for DC? Was "creator rights" in the contract? I don't know, but somehow, I kinda' don't think so, because that wasn't as much of a thing back then. Legally, I doubt DC owes him anything for those characters. It was his decision to give them to DC. Or rather, actually, DC likely paid for them when they paid him.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member Jekyll's Avatar
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    It’s a shame and quite infuriating that people can’t do the right thing. As someone above pointed out someone is making these decisions and it’s not like these corporations can’t afford it. I hope Roy is able to get a resolution to this.
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