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The Web of the Snyder – Part 1

First This
Sorry it’s been so long between posts. Harsh reality sometimes asserts and fun has to wait.
 
 
Now This
In an answer to a comment regarding “What Has Gone Before and a Modest Proposal” I said this:

In any other medium besides comics, the person who has and reasonably develops the original idea is the creator. Usually the writer. Ask 1,000 people who created Star Wars. George Lucas, not the army of designers, artists, even re-writers who participated. Ask 1,000 people who created Jurassic Park. Michael Crichton, not the designers and filmmakers who developed the visuals, or even David Koepp who wrote the shooting script for the film. In comics, however, even a work-for-hire artist following a design made by the writer, a description given by the writer or instructions from the editor is given co-credit as creator. Does anyone else think this is unusual?

That sparked some debate, people weighing in on who deserves creator credit and under what conditions. And that’s fine. It’s an interesting topic. However, I suspect that some people thought I was asserting that the writer should get credit as creator. Nope. I said:

Note, everyone, that I’m not offering a position, here, I’m just asking questions.

I’m still not sure I made myself understood. The point I was making is that comic books are different from other visual media when it comes to crediting the original creator of characters and properties. I said nothing about whether what happens in the comic book industry was right or wrong, better or worse than elsewhere. Maybe we’ve got it right and everybody else has it wrong.
Here’s me trying to press the assertion that we’re different:

Back to my original point: ask 1,000 people who created Star Wars. George Lucas. Does anyone anywhere rise up, rail against that assertion and insist that the designer of the look of Darth Vader should be given co-creator credit?

(…)

How about the myriad people who have contributed additions to the Star Wars property since its beginnings? Anyone up in arms over their not getting credit as co-creators?
Only in the comic book biz does that sort of thing happen, whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent. In other visual media, the person who comes up with the idea and reasonably develops it — usually, but not always the writer — is the creator. The people who come up with the visuals are support troops. Usually.

Sometimes the writer is also the artist. Will Eisner. True collaborations are true collaborations. Siegel and Shuster. Artists sometimes do create things on their own, of course, and sometimes the writers are the support troops.

What constitutes enough of an idea and reasonable development of same is debatable, I suppose. Not so much in other media, mind you, where the idea itself is often enough to warrant creator credit, even if others do the development and create visuals. Only in comic books does some filagree added by an artist raise the question.

Defiant1 chipped in something thoughtful and interesting:

(…)
In most scenarios, I’m in 100% agreement with what Jim is saying. I feel that Stan had such a laid back approach to producing his early 60’s creations that he did open the door to the artists getting a valid co-creator status. Stan encouraged the artists to fill in the gaps that define the characters.

I feel that society puts too much emphasis on creator status. No one really creates anything. The elements in a writer’s mind were put there by the culture before them. They essentially just line up the building blocks based upon what they’ve experienced. Daredevil was already a character’s name in the Golden Age. The Human Torch was already a flying human-like entity. Some of the building blocks aren’t as obvious, but everything is inspired by something that came before in one shape or another.

Before I got into manufacturing and working with engineers, I thought brilliant guys sat down and just invented brilliant inventions. I’ve now learned that brilliant inventions are more often than not just tweaks and redesigns of previous inventions. The technology powering a mining truck is just tweaked technology that was powering a locomotive. It’s scaled down to power the hybrid cars, trucks, and vans coming out in the next decade. Someone will be attributed with creating something, but a large portion of what they invent was already invented by someone else. They just tweaked it and people envision it as something original and new.

All thoughts on the subject…or any subject, really, are welcome.
(ASIDE: As for me, I have always been generous about giving credit and sharing credit, and whatever money or benefits came with the credit. Ask the Blog Elf, she was there. Thus, I have provided ammunition for detractors who say that I can’t really create anything on my own. Whatever. People may like what I do or not, but I believe I have demonstrated that I can do what I do. And I still think erring on the side of generosity is good policy.)
 
 
Dick Snyder
Anyone who thinks I was a tough boss never heard tell of Richard E. “Dick” Snyder.
Dick Snyder worked his way up through the executive ranks at Simon & Schuster, becoming President in 1975 and rising from there to CEO and Chairman starting in 1986. He was famously a despot of Ming the Merciless magnitude.
In 1984, Fortune Magazine listed him among “America’s Toughest Bosses,” and by tough they meant mean. Two high-net-worth friends of mine who know him personally assured me that he loved it, and even campaigned for the “honor.”
For instance, legend says that the elevator starters had to have an elevator “reserved,” ready and waiting, doors open, when he arrived at the S&S building—or else—and that no one was ever allowed to be on the elevator with him. If he was in an elevator car, no one else could come aboard. If he entered an elevator car, anyone already aboard had to exit immediately. No one was ever permitted to ride in an elevator with the Dick, Snyder. Inconvenience him in any way and you were fired.
He ruled imperiously, tyrannically. His way was the only way, and you’d better not pout, you’d better not cry. S&S employees compared him to the Ayatollah Khomeini—very quietly. A guy I knew who worked at S&S at the time, a honcho at kids’ book division Little Simon, confirmed the above.
Dick Snyder turned S&S from a $40 million a year business into a $2 billion-plus a year business, the largest publishing house in the world. Publishing Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s The Final Days about the end of Richard “Dick” Nixon’s presidency in 1974 was what got the S&S snowball rolling.  Ironically. the fall of one Dick led to the rise of another Dick.
Sumner Redstone, architect of Viacom, eventually gained control of Simon & Schuster In 1994. Redstone and Snyder, shall we say, didn’t get along. There is a wonderful story about Redstone firing Snyder for arrogantly perpetrating precisely the kind of “inconvenience” upon Redstone that got employees of Snyder punished with termination. The story was told to me long ago by someone very much in the know, but he got it second hand, so I won’t attempt to tell it in detail here. But, if I remember it right, if it’s accurate, it’s priceless.
So, Snyder was looking for a new publishing industry gig.
He put together a group of investors and, in mid-1996, bought Western Publishing.
Western Publishing had once been the dominant mass-market children’s book publisher by dint of its well-known Golden Books line. WP had robust printing and distribution operations; therefore, they were wonderfully vertically integrated. They developed the content, printed the books, distributed the books, controlled the “real estate” (that is, display space), owned the racks, and kicked everybody’s butt. Nearest competitor Random House was a distant second. Upstart Marvel Books, publishers of children’s books based upon licensed properties Western and Random House didn’t want, including those of Fisher-Price, Mattel and Hallmark, was a joke, one of Marvel President Jim Galton’s greatest blunders. More on that later.
Western Publishing had been run for a number of years by Richard Bernstein, a billionaire who had made his money in real estate—the normal kind, not display space. His offices were/are at 444 Madison Avenue (a building that he owned and probably still owns), just a few blocks up Mad Ave from where I lived.
A slight digression: Bernstein was (and still is, I suspect—I haven’t seen him for a while) a character. He was shockingly candid, straightforward, honest, bold, irreverent and sometimes a little crude. I loved his CEO’s statements in Western Publishing’s annual reports. What CEO says things like “I screwed up” in the annual report?
Bernstein and Ronald O. Perelman were friends. I guess they belonged to the same billionaires’ club.  Whatever. Richard jokingly referred to Perelman as “Ronnie the Retard.”
Richard Bernstein flew everywhere in his private, state of the art, luxury jet. He had four pilots accompany him everywhere so that the FAA regulations regarding limitations on flying hours would never ground him. One of his pilots was always legally take-off ready.
Richard jokingly said unrepeatably scandalous things about then-Mattel CEO Jill Barad, known around the toy and kids businesses as “The Babe of Toyland.” I know Jill a little. I have no doubt that he did it in her presence, and I have no doubt that she laughed, and I have no doubt that she then kicked his ass and I suspect that he loved it.
Western, under Richard Bernstein was one of the potential buyers of Marvel when the Cadence Management, Inc. (CMI) greedy bastards who had taken Marvel parent Cadence Industries private put Marvel up for sale. Because I was a “key man,” Bernstein personally interviewed me a few times during the due diligence process. At the end of the last interview, he said, words to the effect, “The more I look at this (Marvel) the more I think I’m buying you and some used furniture.” I am not so vain as to think he meant me, literally. He meant me and the Marvel creative group, our works and the store of creative works under my purview.
Bernstein walked away from the deal to buy Marvel at the eleventh hour because he found Shelly Feinberg, CMI overlord, and his five CMI dwarves to be reprehensible scum (as did I), who agreed to terms, then at signing time demanding a nickel or a dime more. I’ve dealt with slime like that (including Shelly and co., obviously). They’re infuriating.
Bernstein/Western had invested well over half a million dollars in due diligence expenses—auditors, accountants and lawyers, investigating the proposed acquisition, as a publicly traded company must—and walked away!—pushed past the breaking point by the scumbaggery of Shelly and his dwarves! If you’re not an investment banker or M&A financially savvy, you cannot possibly appreciate the immensity of that act.
How do I know the details of Bernstein’s investment? After I was cast out of Marvel, my Marvel Acquisition Partners attempted to buy Marvel. The law firm we chose to represent us, by coincidence, was Baker & McKenzie, the same one that Bernstein had used, and the very lawyers who worked with Bernstein worked with us. They told us! They showed me the documents! And, P.S., Bernstein later told me, too.
So…after being cut loose by Marvel and failing to buy Marvel, I needed a gig. Thanks to Marvel’s efforts to blame me for everything bad that ever happened, the journalistically-bereft fanzines’ willingness to believe Marvel’s spin, or in the case of The Comics Journal, their zeal to capitalize on Shooter-hatred, and the comics community falling for the crap, I was the pariah of comics at that point.  To some extent, I still am.
My phone never rang. No one wanted me. Am I such a bad writer that no one had any use for me?  So it seemed. So I scrambled to survive.
Among my scramble-to-survive maneuvers while I was desperate and unemployed, I wrote two books for Western Publishing: After the Dinosaurs: The Story of Prehistoric Mammals and Man and Baby Animals On the Farm.
The opportunity to write those books, by the way, had nothing to do with my brief association with Bernstein. While at Marvel, I’d met Thea Feldman, an editor who worked at Crown Publishers. She later moved to Golden Books. Apparently, from what she’d seen of my work, she thought I could write. Go figure.
Thea called and told me that GB wanted to do a Big Little Golden Book about ancient mammals, and suggested that I pitch a proposal (probably because I am an ancient mammal). I said, “Shouldn’t you get a scientist to write that?” She said, “We get writers to write and scientists to check the facts.” (The word “nitwit,” left off of the end of her sentence, was understood). Okay. So, I pitched. My proposal, one of eleven offered, was selected by the publisher, Robin Warner. More about her, later.
I wrote the book. A scientist on staff at New York’s Museum of Natural History, one Dr. Dingus—Dingus, I kid you not—fact-checked it. It slid by.
The Golden Books art director chose an idiot, I mean artist, to illustrate the book. The art director’s husband was an artists’ rep and, low and behold, the “artists” he repped got tons of work from his wife, no matter how incompetent or inappropriate they were. The art director woman had kept her maiden name, so no one in upper management knew she was feathering the family nest when she used, almost exclusively, the alleged artists that were her husband’s clients. Everyone else knew about it.
The “art” for After the Dinosaurs sucked. Bernie Wrightson would have rocked it and won us a Caldecott Medal, but I didn’t have a vote about the art, nor did the editor. Sigh.
(TOTAL ASIDE: Almost all children’s book about creatures of any kind, prehistoric or otherwise, are “parade books.” One damn critter after another. “Here’s the Tyrannosaurus Rex. It lived 65 million years ago. It weighed seven and a half tons. It ate meat….”  Turn the page. “Here’s the Stegosaurus. It lived 150 million years ago….”
A parade. I tried, in After the Dinosaurs to give a sense of how the world and the critters evolved, what the history was. Nobody cared, except the editor, one brilliant woman, by the way, if you discount the fact that she thought I had a clue.)
After After the Dinosaurs, one Friday, Thea called me up, said some other turkey had let her down and asked me if I could write a book over the weekend. What? Write a book over the weekend? No. No way.
She said it was a Little Golden Book. An updated, new version of a classic, Baby Animals on the Farm. If she didn’t have a manuscript Monday morning there would be consequences and repercussions.
I am familiar with consequences and repercussions.
I said, “How could anyone possibly write a book over a weekend?!”
She said, “It’s a Little Golden Book, nitwit. 200 words, tops.”
I, the nitwit in question, agreed to do it. But why me?
She said, words to the effect, that she knew I’d do it right, first try, edit-free copy. No time to fool around.  No time to deal with even more nit-witty nitwits.
That seemed reasonable.
Those books didn’t pay much up front—five grand for After the Dinosaurs  (pathetic,considering the research involved) and a grand for the Baby Animals (not too bad for two days work)—but the royalties…! A testament to the power of Western Publishing’s sales dominance at that time.  The royalties from those two books, which arrived like clockwork twice a year for a looong time kept me alive.
Anyway….
In the auction for Marvel, MAP came in second to Perelman. Long story. More on that later.
As I said, no one would hire me….
I went to Bernstein and asked him if he would license the Gold Key characters to me so I could start a new comics company. He remembered me from our meetings. He was unaware (!) that Western owned comics properties (Magnus, Solar, et al). At first, he proposed starting a division of Western with me at the helm to publish comics.
His subordinates were not interested in comics. Rather than fight the internal tide, Richard said he would hold the characters for me until I raised money, started my own company and was ready to proceed. He said he was impressed by me, and would “bet on” me.
Bernstein/Western subsequently had offers from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and others for the Gold Key characters. Per Bernstein, they held the characters for me for two years. Ask Mike Richardson.
Finally, with Winston Fowlkes and Steve Massarsky I founded VALIANT.
(P.S. Some months later, I hired, as an inker, Bob Layton, who was unemployed and persona non grata everywhere else at the time. The lie bandied about by Bob and other weasels that he was a “co-founder” of VALIANT is preposterous. Ask the Elf.)
Miracles and horrors ensued….
Cut to the days of Broadway Comics. We were trying to build something….
Meanwhile….
As previously mentioned, in 1996, Dick Snyder got control of what had been Western Publishing and changed the name of the company to Golden Books Family Entertainment. Snyder sold off some pieces of the former Western, mostly non-children’s book publishing operations, and made a number of acquisitions en route to focusing the company on children’s entertainment.
Among the acquisitions made was Broadway Video Entertainment, owners of Lassie, the Lone Ranger, all those puppet animation Christmas movies on TV every year and, oh, by the way, Broadway Comics.
And so, for Broadway Comics…along came a Snyder.
Suddenly we were part of Golden Books.
I met the Snyder at the company Christmas party. We spoke, briefly. He was very polite. And completely uninterested in Broadway Comics, me, or anything but getting the hell out of that obligatory appearance as quickly as possible.
And, as it turned out, getting the hell out of the comic book business as quickly as possible.
NEXT:  Ugly Death

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44 Comments

  1. I feel that society puts too much emphasis on creator status. No one really creates anything. The elements in a writer’s mind were put there by the culture before them. They essentially just line up the building blocks based upon what they’ve experienced. Daredevil was already a character’s name in the Golden Age. The Human Torch was already a flying human-like entity. Some of the building blocks aren’t as obvious, but everything is inspired by something that came before in one shape or another.

  2. The Golden Books art director chose an idiot, I mean artist, to illustrate the book. The art director’s husband was an artists’ rep and, low and behold, the “artists” he repped got tons of work from his wife, no matter how incompetent or inappropriate they were. The art director woman had kept her maiden name, so no one in upper management knew she was feathering the family nest when she used, almost exclusively, the alleged artists that were her husband’s clients. Everyone else knew about it.

  3. Anonymous

    "He's going out on a limb to gather info that contradicts what the textbooks say. He doesn't want to be grouped or confused with people who generically go out on every limb they can."

    [MikeAnon:] But aren't you making the exact same assumption he did? That *his* assertions are evidence-based, but *their* assertions are just examples of "going out on a limb"? He's not even a scientist, whereas the theories I was mentioning came from actual scientists with years of work in the very fields in which they were proposing their radical theories. (Not that Mr. Adams necessarily knew that from the minute or two we spoke, but he couldn't possibly have ruled it out from those two minutes, either.) [–MikeAnon]

  4. Mikeanon,

    Well, I think his reaction is to be expected. He's going out on a limb to gather info that contradicts what the textbooks say. He doesn't want to be grouped or confused with people who generically go out on every limb they can.

    All new scientific ideas are scoffed at or ignored until they are proven. Tesla is a prime example. People thought he was nuts, but he was already proving his theories in private. Einstein thought the concept of quantum entanglement was outlandish, but scientist have proven it is real. They are making quantum logic circuits for computers in the labs.

    For years we were told that the oil underground was from decaying plants and dinosaurs. I never thought that made sense when I was 12 years old. Now scientists are finding evidence that geothermal reactions might be the source. To me that makes a hell of a lot more sense.

    His big issue is that he doesn't believe in subduction. Do a Google image search online. Can you find photographic proof of even one region where subduction is occurring. I found a lot of drawings generated by the scientific community, but I think I found one picture. A few months later I read an article that scientists were claiming their theories were wrong in that one region and had another completely different explanation.
    When scientists are finding evidence that Georgia (the state) was connected to the middle of Africa and Texas shares the same rocks as Antarctica. He's pulled together A LOT of circumstantial evidence. The only thing he hasn't explained is what's causing it. That's the biggest thing hurting his theory.

  5. Anonymous

    "Neal Adams is treated like a crackpot over his theories of a growing Earth…."

    [MikeAnon:] Humorous note: I met Mr. Adams at the New York Comicon in 2007 and had the chance to hear his views. When I mentioned how his views reminded me of alternate cosmologies put forward by some astronomers (e.g., that red-shift indicates the age rather than the velocity of stars), he kinda pulled inward and said, "Well, this isn't like any of THAT…." My jaw almost dropped. Here was a guy claiming the earth was expanding, but heaven forbid that idea should be associated with any "crackpot theories" I might have picked up somewhere. This is one area where I think science and religion have a lot in common — the doctrines always sound weird to those who don't believe in them but perfectly rational to the ones that do. [–MikeAnon]

  6. I've started skipping a lot of the archeology articles when I scan for science articles on http://www.sciencedaily.com . The more I was reading them, the more it looked like guessing. Neal Adams is treated like a crackpot over his theories of a growing Earth, but I'm not entirely convinced his observations don't have merit. His theory is that continental drift interfered with migration routes of the dinosaur. Even if there is no evidence for that to be true, I give him points for thinking outside the box. Ancient coral growth layers (much like tree rings) definitely indicate days were shorter long ago. I've never heard Neal cite that as a support for his theories, but it would be a good validation if he ever wished to do so.

  7. Anonymous

    [MikeAnon:] I'd like to make a request that the new "Reply" feature of the board be canned. Here's why: Now, instead of checking the bottom of a page for new replies, I have to check the whole page. That's too much work, and it makes it way too easy to miss someone's reply. For example, on this page the last comment is Stuart Moore's 1/13 4:41AM comment, but Mr. Shooter actually made a later comment halfway up the column at 12:24PM that I would have missed were it not for the "latest comments" feature on the main page. It's just way easier to keep track of what everyone is saying if you can see it all in a single column. [–MikeAnon]

  8. In the early '90s, artists were considered far more important to a comic's success than writers. The wheel has turned, and writers are now (rightly or wrongly) regarded as the more important factor. One thing never changes, though: You can't beat a well-oiled team working together.

    As for creation: There's a credit occasionally used in TV: "Developed by." That might be applicable here for contributors who add significantly to an existing character, like Chris Claremont on Wolverine. But in any medium, that's a big can of worms. Apportioning credit requires a very subjective judgment by fallible human beings.

  9. JC

    That kids book illustrated by the Hildebrandt Bros, are the same guys that did the iconic painted Star Wars poster. If you read 'The Big City' book, you will see tons of small little details. I insisted that my mom buy the book when I first saw it in the mid 70s. Dont forget that Frazetta did his share of furry animal comics too.

    • Chris

      I'm shocked if those are the same Hildebrandt Brothers. I have several art books of theirs from Tolkien to movie posters, and I didn't see any of their style in that children's book. I guess I stand corrected. Thanks, JC.

  10. Jim, going back to the original topic of the column, you wrote, "In any other medium besides comics, the person who has and reasonably develops the original idea is the creator."
    There is one huge medium you have overlooked, and hopefully you'll be kicking yourself once I point it out:
    In pop music, the performer is the artist, and the man (or woman or group) typically associated with the song. In classical music, it's the composer. Many pop artists are singer/songwriters who write their own material (in music, think Stevie Wonder, in comics, Frank Miller)—but many do not. Britney Spears's "Oops I Did It Again" was written by Max Martin and Rami Yacoub—I didn't know that until I looked it up.
    Comic books are, by and large, a pop medium, and pop art is associated with performance, not composition. Exceptions that prove the rule: writers like Alan Moore and Chris Claremont who take a more literary approach, and are thus associated with their works (justifiably so), even though they don't draw them personally.
    So it is not surprising to me that artists would be associated with characters that debut under their pen, not writers. The audience is drawn to who is up there on stage with the microphone…or as the case may be, the pencil…crafting a performance and espousing a personal identity and "brand." And thus "Oops I Did It Again" is "by" Britney Spears, even if compositionally it wasn't.

    • PC

      Music has something comics do not: a frontman, a face. In comics, the frontman is the character, or at least the story. In music, it's the performer.

      The idea of singer/songwriters was relatively unknown in pop circles before the Beatles, or at least before rock. In the days of the "Great American Songbook" artists would pick up a song from a catalog and sing it. Songs wouldn't be associated with a particular singer, but people would pay to have Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday sing their favorite songs. Even jazz musicians performed each others' compositions alongside their own.

      There are some pop songs that are reasonably easy to discern who the writers were, if you already know what to look for. In the disco era, Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards stuff was quite similar, whether the band was Chic or Sister Sledge. And in the 80s the Stock-Aitken-Waterman production team were very big on recycling their loops. The bassline in Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky" is identical to the one in Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round".

  11. If you ask me who created Star Wars, I'm liable to say Jack Kirby. George Lucas is a bloody awful film director but an excellent plagiarist

  12. Anonymous

    The Daleks example is, as Graeme said, down to the different contracts. Terry Nation's estate owns the rights to the Daleks as characters, and the BBC owns the right to their appearance/design.

    As for the creative process:

    Nation came up with the name, the idea that they should glide a bit like some Russian dancers he'd recently seen, and some generic bug-eyed-monster characterisation (which he later refined in the image of Hitler). Cusick was entirely responsible for the design of the Daleks. The BBC's radiophonic workshop and the voice actors were entirely responsible for inventing their distinctive voices.

    Whilst Nation is recognised as the creator of the Daleks on the credits, due to the legal rights he obtained, the fans know full well that he was the least important person involved in their creation. The aspects that made the Daleks popular and memorable had nothing to do with the man who, legally speaking, created them.

    How (and whether) any of this is analogous to characters created for comics is up for debate, but it's certainly one of the more interesting examples to look at.

    • Kid

      The reason I brought up the Daleks example (current legal definitions and explanations of copyright aside, to say nothing of financial renumeration), was because I saw similarities in the Bob Kane/Bill Finger situation. (And the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko ones.)

      Terry created the concept of the Daleks, Ray gave them their finished look. Bob created the concept of The Batman, Bill gave him his finished look. Stan created…well, you get the point.

      There is a difference between creating a concept and a finished product. The finished product which is laid before the public is a result of more than one person's work.

      Should, therefore, the 'finished product' be credited as the 'creation' of those who made it what it is? Example: Should it be – Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Daleks, created by Terry Nation and Ray Cusick. Or should it be – Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and designed by Steve Ditko? (Etc., etc.)

      Just how should credit be apportioned?

    • Paul Dushkind

      Check these out, to drive home the point that the person who came up with the concept is not the person responsible for a comic-book's tone or success:

      http://kerrycallen.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-if-dc-published-1970s-marvel.html

      http://kerrycallen.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-if-dc-published-marvel-characters.html

      After the success of Superman, Vin Sullivan assigned Bob Kane to create another hero. Kane, in turn, brought in Bill Finger. If the account in Les Daniels' book is accurate, then The Batman was created by Bill Finger, with the assistance of Bob Kane. Finger even dictated the basic look of the costume, after Kane had tried something much different, in red and green.

      Finger, one of the best writers, is said to have died poor. The issue is not just who should get the credit, but how the creators should get paid.

  13. The Terry Nation / Ray Cusick / Daleks thing is a complicated stuation. Nation was a freelance writer, whereas Cusick was a BBC staff designer. Much of the disparity came from the fact that Nation had the ability to negotiate a contractual arrangement with the BBC as he was a freelancer who sold a script, whereas Cusick was a paid employee who did the work of designing the Daleks as part of his job.

  14. "Except film where the director has almost always been labelled the author of the film by generations of film critics (thanks to the "auteur theory"), despite the screenwriter having the original concept and developing it fully in their original screenplay, without which there would be nothing to direct."

    From what I've read, screenplays for films are usually commissioned after directors or producers have worked out an idea or a general direction. Here's what Wikipedia says:

    "Screenplays can generally be divided into two kinds; a 'spec' screenplay, and a commissioned screenplay.

    A 'spec' or speculative screenplay is a script written with no upfront payment, or a promise of payment. The content is usually invented solely by the screenwriter, though spec screenplays can also be based on established works, or real people and events.

    A commissioned screenplay is written by a hired writer. The concept is usually developed long before the screenwriter is brought on, and usually has many writers work on it before the script is given a green-light."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screenplay

    The writer of "North by Northwest" claims that spec scripts were even rarer in the past:

    "Originals were not smiled upon in those days, believe it or not. There was very little interest in originals in those days. […] Studios, distributors wanted the assurance of someone else having thought a property worth publishing[…] In those days, if you went to a party in the Hollywood community and somebody would ask, "What are you working on, Ernie?" and you replied, "I'm doing an original now," the response would be "Oh." […] Like they were a little embarrassed[…] If you were working on something that you were going to create all by yourself, they'd secretly think, "He's in bad shape. Working on an original." That definitely was the climate at one time in this town."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spec_script

  15. Paul Dushkind

    Somebody should find a better term than "creator" for someone who "creates" a derivative character. Not "imitator," which sounds derogatory. There is nothing wrong with the way characters are copied in comics. Isn't Gardner Fox the co-creator of Quicksilver? When Jack Kirby designed the costume, he didn't even work hard to make him look much different from The Flash. Marvel didn't try to disguise the source material for Ka-Zar. They even named him after Tarzan.

    Martin Nodell created the original Green Lantern with a written summary of a character who recharged his power ring every 24 hours with a battery that looked like a lantern. When Nodell was alive, there was talk of him getting ownership of the modern version of Green Lantern. Rumor had it that he wouldn't because Kyle Rayner didn't have to recharge. This makes it sound like DC's lawyers are seven years old.

    Marc Miyake has a point that the creator who comes up with the idea of a title isn't necessarily the person responsible for making it great. If Larry Lieber's interview in Alter Ego is accurate, then he and Stan Lee created the comic-book version of Thor. Whoever designed his likeness and costume, probably Jack Kirby, also should be considered a co-creator. But the title didn't really take off until Larry was off it and Jack was drawing and plotting the stories.

    I don't know who at Marvel came up with the idea of Daredevil. I've always considered it one of the most creative ideas. It's an exaggeration of reality. Blind people do strengthen their other senses. Some people really can distinguish colors by touch. I'm showing my age. For me, Daredevil was on the radar long before Frank Miller.

  16. Chris

    It's cool to hear the story behind the Little Golden Books.

    Long ago, before the Internet, I requested a book from the library that was illustrated by the Hildebrandt Brothers. To my disappointment, it was a cutesy animal book by apparently another couple of Hildebrandt Brothers, and not the ones known for their fantasy art. If I had seen "James Shooter" on a Little Golden Book, I wouldn't have made the connection.

    Now, I have to add "Baby Animals" to my list to have autographed. I bet that's not a commonly requested one.

  17. Dear Matt,

    RE: "the very lawyers who worked with Bernstein worked with us. They told us! They showed me the documents!"

    Isn't that a breach of confidentiality?"

    I guess it is. I was surprised that they did it. But I looked at the docs.

  18. Dear Paul,

    RE: "I too would like to know what's wrong with the art in After the Dinosaurs. I haven't seen the interior, but the cover obviously doesn't suck, although it is curious that the pachyderm is nonchalant about the cat.

    How is it possible to update a book like On the Farm?"

    The interior art for After the Dinosaurs is washed out. It looks like it was out in the sun too long. It's also very static and dull. Artist Peter Barrett ignored many of my instructions. For instance, he did not agree with the comet or meteor impact extinction theory, and would not draw an illustration of the comet or meteor striking — even though the scene he was asked to draw was clearly identified as an illustration of one of several theories. The editor threw a fit. Finally, she badgered the art director into asking Barrett to draw a couple of dead dinos and a red sky in the background. He drew the blandest representations possible of every animal in the book — that is, because he refused to "speculate," he ignored reference — extrapolations made by experts — and gave me rhinos and hippos with odd headgear instead.

    I don't remember the original Baby Animals on the Farm book well, but it was old-fashioned and had a dated feel. I wrote a new story with the same title. I tried to make it a little livelier. The artist drew what she drew, somewhat more like what I asked for than Barrett did.

  19. Man, it wrings my soul to realize how close Perelman came to NOT being the successful buyer of Marvel. Naturally, Jim's group getting Marvel would have been the ideal, but it sounds like Bernstein getting it wouldn't have been a bad alternative – I can't imagine it would have been worse than Perelman.

    Fate is a fickle mistress . . .

  20. Anonymous

    Too long. too many dead end tangents.

  21. Dear Kid,

    RE: "Fascinating stuff. On the point of 'creators', Terry Nation created the idea of the Daleks for Dr Who, but his description of them was open to interpretation. (As testified to by the preliminary sketches by the man who designed them.) Ray Cusick was the man who gave them their distinctive look which has since become iconic. The success of the Daleks practically created the merchandising arm of the BBC, but Cusick was later given a bonus of only £100 for his contribution. Should he be regarded as a co-creator or not? If one thinks not, by the same standard, Bill Finger would perhaps have to be denied his status as co-creator of The Batman. Any thoughts on this, Jim?"

    I don't know. Maybe there's a distinction between "creator" and contributor. The trouble is, as you point out, it's often not a case of whose name is listed as creator in the credits. Often there's money at stake, or other benefits.

  22. "the very lawyers who worked with Bernstein worked with us. They told us! They showed me the documents!"

    Isn't that a breach of confidentiality?

  23. Paul Dushkind

    I too would like to know what's wrong with the art in After the Dinosaurs. I haven't seen the interior, but the cover obviously doesn't suck, although it is curious that the pachyderm is nonchalant about the cat.

    How is it possible to update a book like On the Farm?

  24. Blok 4 Prez

    "In any other medium besides comics, the person who has and reasonably develops the original idea is the creator."

    Except film where the director has almost always been labelled the author of the film by generations of film critics (thanks to the "auteur theory"), despite the screenwriter having the original concept and developing it fully in their original screenplay, without which there would be nothing to direct.

    Of course, if the same writer whose script became a movie had sold their script as a TV show and not a film, they do get the "author" credit by critics (and additionally, the Writers Guild of America makes sure they get the "Created by" credit if they wrote the original pilot.)

  25. (Continued from above.)

    Finally, the tale behind your Golden books! Four years ago, I read this interview in which you said, "I can give you [a] cute, cuddly little furry animals in the forest story." Having bought and read Baby Animals on the Farm, now I know what you meant.

    I also saw the not-so-cute, big animals that came After the Dinosaurs. What didn't you like about the art? Did you have any say in the layouts and copy placement? The one thing that bugged me were instances in which the labels on the art didn't match the prose. (Hmmm, kinda like some comics.) For instance, page 17 mentions pelycosaurs, but the label on the art refers to a "Petrolacosaurus." The context implies that the petrolacosaurus must be a pelycosaur, but taking a moment to think about that diverted me from the story — yes, story.

    Parade books are boring. I haven't touched my dinosaur parade book since I was seven 34 years ago. I prefer your narrative approach. One suspenseful moment for me was at the end of p. 42 which refers to a unspecified "major change" in the world. What was that? The answer was on pp. 44-45. (It was also in the title at the top of p. 42 — d'oh!)

    I was into natural history as a child, but my interest ended at the point where life rose from the sea. So I learned a lot from your book which covered the periods I knew little about. Although the book is titled After the Dinosaurs, the dinosaurs die near the halfway point. Was there any resistance to setting only half the book after the dinosaurs? I'm glad you did cover all you did, because the first half set the stage for the rest, and being a fan of the earlier periods, I got to see my beloved trilobites.

    As a linguist, I appreciated the references to the development of language. When I read the line, "Man, the communciator, can share what he has learned," I thought, "That's you, the communicator."

    How much did you learn during the research for this book? You've said that you studied a lot of science in high school. How much of that was biology? I'm assuming the biology class that inspired the Parasite was just your first.

    Baby Animals could also have become a parade book if not for the mouse as a linking device. There are a couple of moments when the mouse is off-camera. That threw me off a bit, though I can see the difficulty of having the mouse in every single scene.

    The opening is intriguing. A two-page spread (sorry, I can't stop thinking in comics terms) establishes the location and the narrator says, "There is an uninvited guest." My eyes scan the scene as I wonder who the guest is. I gotta know. I turn the page. There's even a climax. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the book.

    I didn't know how imporant the royalties for these books are. I should have because Golden Books have far better distribution than comic books. How could Golden Books have gone bankrupt? I'll be baffled until I read part 2.

    • RE: "…After the Dinosaurs. What didn't you like about the art? Did you have any say in the layouts and copy placement? The one thing that bugged me were instances in which the labels on the art didn't match the prose. (Hmmm, kinda like some comics.) For instance, page 17 mentions pelycosaurs, but the label on the art refers to a "Petrolacosaurus." The context implies that the petrolacosaurus must be a pelycosaur, but taking a moment to think about that diverted me from the story — yes, story."

      I gave this answer to the same question earlier, but it bears repeating:

      The interior art for After the Dinosaurs is washed out. It looks like it was out in the sun too long. It's also very static and dull. Artist Peter Barrett ignored many of my instructions. For instance, he did not agree with the comet or meteor impact extinction theory, and would not draw an illustration of the comet or meteor striking — even though the scene he was asked to draw was clearly identified as an illustration of one of several theories. The editor threw a fit. Finally, she badgered the art director into asking Barrett to draw a couple of dead dinos and a red sky in the background. He drew the blandest representations possible of every animal in the book — that is, because he refused to "speculate," he ignored reference — extrapolations made by experts — and gave me rhinos and hippos with odd headgear instead.

      I had no input into the book after delivering the script.

      RE: "Although the book is titled After the Dinosaurs, the dinosaurs die near the halfway point. Was there any resistance to setting only half the book after the dinosaurs?"

      No. The way I saw it, the title had the word "dinosaurs" in it and some who bought the book would be disappointed if there weren't a lot of dinos. Also, the precursors of mammals and dinos started out at about the same time. Hard to tell the whole story of mammals without covering the period of dino dominance as well. The editor and publisher agreed.

      RE: "How much did you learn during the research for this book?"

      The main thing I learned was that scientists, with rare exceptions like Stephen J. Gould, can't write to save their lives. I bought every children's book available about ancient mammals — all parade books. Useless. I bought many college textbooks and allegedly scholarly works on the subject. Not a single book explained the history and development of ancient mammals. Most seemed to be more or less collections of the facts one needed to know to pass a test. Most were written in a confusing and convoluted way. I had to cross reference many volumes to piece together a historical thread. Expert consultant Dr. Dingus grudgingly admitted that I got it right. BTW, Dr. Dingus is a proponent of the theory that modern birds are surviving dinos. Every time dinos or birds were mentioned in my manuscript, he scrawled in the margin "BIRDS ARE DINOSAURS!" Okay. He also complained that some of my statements were "tautological." Hey, Sherlock, it's a KID'S book, I can't slice this stuff too fine!

      RE: "How could Golden Books have gone bankrupt?"

      Western Publishing was in decline when Snyder and co. bought it. Aside from CEO Richard Bernstein, Western had the most inept, aging, stuck in the mud management of any company that size that I know of. Too many years of unchallenged dominance resulting in complacency. Their printing business had been out-competed by hungrier, smarter rivals. The editorial content of their books was so out of date and tired (hence, desperate measures like hiring me to "refresh" Baby Animals) that sales were plummeting. Pokey Puppy and Saggy Baggy Elephant had run their course. Enter: Snyder, who spent too much on the wrong things (himself, for instance), made stupid moves and missed every real opportunity. He should have asked me, I could have suggested a few things to try.

  26. Dear Jim,

    Instead of asking whether it's "right" or "wrong" to regard someone as a creator, I'd like to ask *why* the standards are different for different media.

    I've drawn amateur comics for other people but have never considered myself to be their creator. A contributor, but not the creator.

    "Creator" is often short for "who the speaker thinks deserves the royalties." Things get messy when contributors make a property bigger than it was under the original creator. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the original X-Men and Len Wein was the first scripter of the new X-Men, but nearly all their best-known adventures were scripted by Chris Claremont. And it was Frank Miller who put Daredevil on the map. FM's DD wore a WW (Wally Wood) costume, not the outfit drawn by Bill Everett for the first issue.

    What do Dick Snyder and other inhabitants of the Planet of the Executives think of creators? I love your stories from that world, even though I have no desire to set foot on its surface.

    "If you’re not an investment banker or M&A financially savvy, you cannot possibly appreciate the immensity of that act."

    I'm neither of those things. Like I said, I was never on Planet Exec. I can only guess that a company that had spent so much on due diligence would pay the extra coin anyway. I wonder what Bernstein's Marvel would have been like.

    It must have been convenient for Marvel Acquisition Partners to work with lawyers who already had recent experience with the company. Bringing newbie lawyers up to speed might have slowed you down.

    (To be continued.)

  27. Anonymous,

    Don't underestimate me. I force people to think whether it's something they want to think about or not. I feel that a lot of people need more practice thinking because they aren't very good at it.

  28. I suspect those Children's books will be showing up at comic book conventions in no time. It's always amazing that entire business units can prosper or fail based upon whether two people at the top can get along or not. People's whole careers and livelihoods get discarded because one guy has a gripe with another over something minor and stupid. Talked to a guy today that's moved up to head a business group that was awarded contracts totaling 150 million dollars. I was flattered he took the time to stop at my desk. In the end though, people are people. I make it a point to know what's on the mind of the people running the company. The place to talk to them is in the hallways and elevators. Most people are too intimidated to say anything to them, but I make it a point to chat and share a laugh or two. Once they are behind their desk or at a podium addressing 100 employees, they are in a different mindset. They want you to be the subservient employee and everything they say has to be politically correct for the company. I remember one kid who was put in the role of being my supervisor. He wanted me to do something that was flat out wrong. I had to tell him "accounting has a problem with that". He looked puzzled as if "how could I know that". I said "No, really! I just sat with the head of accounting for 10 minutes yesterday. They don't want it done that way." My boss was too scared to even talk to the head of accounting, but he came back a day or two later and told me I was right.

  29. ja

    To keep in line with the 'dick'ish theme…

    Boy, that's a crap response by Stumptown Trade Review to Jim Shooter being named as the latest Inkwell Award Ambassador.

    • ja

      This is a test of the new 'Reply' link below each person's post. I wonder if it's going to appear under my original reply, or will it be placed at the bottom?

    • ja

      And now we have our answer.

      Very nice addition, JayJay! I like this.

      =D

  30. "Ironically. the fall of one Dick led to the rise of another Dick."

    Perfect!

  31. Anonymous

    "Defiant1 chipped in something thoughtful and interesting:"

    About damn time.

  32. Anonymous

    Hey Jim. I don't mean to stray from such a fascinating blog-subject today, but congrats on becoming an ambassador for the inkwell Awards! I accidently found out about it after searching for a link to your blog on a seach engine today. Here's a link to the site where I found out about the news:

    http://stumptowntradereview.com/2012/01/why-jim-shooter-a-response/

    And sorry to get off subject again but does anyone comics-savy know what issue and book James Winslow "Win" Mortimer started drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes stories from the 60's? I read Jim's "Sex and Drugs" blog and I just fell in love with Win Mortmer's art!! Thanks Jim.

    -Jon

  33. So I have your Turok run at Dark Horse, now I need After The Dinosaurs for more Dinosaur-Shooter!!!

    Well and need your scribble on them, of course.

  34. Ralf Haring

    "Does anyone anywhere rise up, rail against that assertion and insist that the designer of the look of Darth Vader should be given co-creator credit?"

    Well since you brought it up… Here is an article from the summer about the original designer of the stormtrooper armor winning a court case in the UK allowing him to sell replicas of the armor. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/27/idUS313264998420110727

  35. Kid

    Fascinating stuff. On the point of 'creators', Terry Nation created the idea of the Daleks for Dr Who, but his description of them was open to interpretation. (As testified to by the preliminary sketches by the man who designed them.) Ray Cusick was the man who gave them their distinctive look which has since become iconic. The success of the Daleks practically created the merchandising arm of the BBC, but Cusick was later given a bonus of only £100 for his contribution. Should he be regarded as a co-creator or not? If one thinks not, by the same standard, Bill Finger would perhaps have to be denied his status as co-creator of The Batman. Any thoughts on this, Jim?

  36. You couldn't slip a superhero into that dino book?

  37. Anonymous

    Ha – just looked up the Baby Animals book on Amazon. By James C Shooter

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