ja said… (…)
Jim, I would love to know your insight on this possible real-world scenario: Disney might one day revoke Marvel’s policy on art returns, as they (significantly more than Warner Bros.) have been so vociferously protective of their properties & characters, that everyone who works on anything Mickey, simply are not allowed to keep the originals they produce.
Originals (storyboards, previsualization development work, prop designs, statues, etc.) are, by contract and policy, literally the property of Disney.
What happens when or if Disney puts a halt to this policy at Marvel, leading the way for Warner Bros. and everyone else? I believe this will send damaging ripples throughout the industry, greatly affecting business at conventions. Great or greater damage to a number of the artists themselves, who depend on that extra income to supplement their livelihoods, could be wrought.
That’s a bomb that I would hate to see go off in this industry. It’s one I can easily imagine happening, though. If or when that would happen, I suspect it would be only the beginning of the various kinds of policy changes by Those In Charge that could cripple the comics industry as a whole.
Those In Charge tend to do such things, wantonly.
Jim, do you think this would or could ever happen? Have you heard any talk from significantly higher-ups from any companies about such a thing?
It’s a butt-clenching, sphincter-tightening possibility that a lot of people would shudder to think about. September 15, 2011 8:06 PM
This changes the landscape considerably.
Disney will help Marvel with their marketing, merchandising and media muscle. Disney will not tolerate the anarchy, chaos, unprofessionalism, small talents with big egos, and rampant editorial ineptitude/wrongheadedness rife at Marvel (and most of the industry). They’ll fix all that and gain ironclad control over their new “brands.” Which brings us to your speculation re: sucking the life out of the comics. I fear that in the course of fixing the various problems listed above they will go too far and suppress useful things — reasonable freedom, spontaneity, innovation, experimentation, groovy outrageousness and all the crazy-but-good stuff.
I still think so. I do not think it unlikely that in the course of protecting their properties that they might, as you suggest, eliminate the return of artwork and take other steps.
Brett Breeding said…(…)
Also Jim, I was under the notion that at some point it was determined through some fashion (Internally? Legally?) that all the physical original artwork was now considered to be copyright of the individual creators, not a gift but in fact property of the artists, and the companies retain all copyright as to the content and characters. An artist can’t publish his original art, but they can include photographs of the pages in certain types of published works, or catalogs. Are you aware of any of this or am I just misinformed? September 17, 2011 12:06 PM
Interesting thoughts, Brett.
I’m not aware of the change in copyright status you’re referring to, but I’m not up to date on industry policy these days. September 17, 2011 1:24 PM
|Addresses have been deleted to avoid confusion, since they are not current.|
I would think if artists did pages electronically you could (possibly) sell more copies of prints of one page.
Making multiple copies sounds a lot more like self-publishing than selling a piece of original artwork, which could be seen as production memorabilia. The company may not want to allow such printing without taking their cut. It could also conflict with licensing agreements they've made. Not to mention, if there is another creator who would be getting royalties from the character being sold in those prints, they may not want to be cheated out of their cut either.
OM, there's a limit of somewhere between 3,900 to 4,000 characters for these comments. Last month it would give me a popup warning telling me that I went over the limit, but now it just sits there, voicelessly refusing to submit. You can test the length of your text at this site:
I don't think it follows logically that because Batman and Spider-Man have hit movies, that there's this large untapped market for the comics.
I wasn't linking those two quite that closely. The main reason I think there's an untapped market is because readership was higher 20 years ago. There are many lapsed readers who left in the '90s. I'm confident they could be brought back if they're offered comics that grew up with them.
The Dark Knight movie is an example of just that. Batman was a big hit in '89. It had cool visuals, exciting action, good one-liners, the same stuff that made comics popular then. Gradually the Batman movies got sillier and stupider in the '90s and lost their audience, just as comics did.
Then Christopher Nolan rebooted them with a new degree of complexity in terms of psychology, morality, plot, dialogue, etc. If Nolan had just made another snappy action picture, it would not have sold more tickets than the original. No matter how well it's done, it's just not that exciting to see the same thing you've seen before.
The action and visuals in Nolan's movies were not groundbreaking as in the first film, but it didn't matter. What people are hungry for now in the superhero genre are great stories that deepen and mature the characters.
Comic books do have an advantage now because superheroes are more accepted in the culture now than ever before. The potential audience is more receptive to the genre but that's meaningless unless they're given the kind of content they really want.
They don't want the same old action and one-liners and they don't want the new cliche of the "grim and gritty" antihero either. What they crave is deep, thoughtful, mature, complex storytelling in the superhero genre. The companies need to be okay with going over the heads of younger readers and putting the star characters out there in stories specifically geared to an adult audience.
Reading is, Harry Potter aside, less and less in favor.
Not in the statistics I looked up. These and these census stats show book sales have doubled from 1.5 billion in 1975 to over 3 billion in 2009.
the simple truth is, they don't need superhero comics to experience superheroes. There are now a ton of cartoons, movies, and most importantly realistic video games
The exact same thing was being said about comics in the '70s. Old articles I've seen confirm that the prevailing wisdom then was that TV killed the comic book star. Sales were down, the decline was seen as irreversible and other media were cited as being their permanent replacements. But then, thanks to Jim and other serious creators, comic books wised up, diversified and matured. Sales rebounded.
The competition from other media was intense in the '80s, but comics held their own and benefited from the synergy. Star Wars didn't kill Marvel, it saved its life due to the tie-in comics. Video games exploded even while comic sales went up alongside them. Superhero and action cartoons were on TV, cable was expanding and VCRs boomed. Yet comics did not decline, not until the mid-'90s, when the content became such a mess that you were hard-pressed to find good writing and good art in the same book, if either at all.
I don't believe comics are in an inevitable, irreversible decline. If they deliver content with better, more appealing stories than other media, audiences will welcome them. New media, like before, is not just a competitor but an opportunity for synergy. Through online distribution and social networking, we could even someday see comic books go viral.
Hi Jim. I love reading your blog. Btw, I ran into you in the halls at the Kubert school (when I was a student over a decade ago) and you were cool enough to stop and have a brief conversation with me. All I can remember was thinking "Man! He REALLY is tall!"
…Uncle Jimbo, ceiling fixture expert, sayeth thusly, yea and verily:
"A good rule of thumb is 'if you have to ask, don't do it.'"
…The corollary that they taught us at D*ll was "if you have to ask, do it anyway and beg forgiveness, especially if it works. Otherwise, they'll never let you have the chance to find out whether it'd work or not in the first place."
…But again, you're correct in always having a shyster or at least a "legal assistant" arround when the tricky stuff in the fine print comes up. Having worked for the Texas AG's office before, I had to have an understanding of most if not all of the major legal avenues regarding personal computing, especially where hardware *and* software was concerned. And even then, before any action was taken, one of the staff attorneys was contacted for approval of interpretation, just to cover the agency's collective butts. Remind me to tell you about the "Computer Mouse" story someday – it's not what you'd expect.
I'm not a lawyer, but I think I have a common sense understanding of intellectual property law and some experience dealing with it. Fortunately, I've usually had a lawyer available to ask regarding the tricky stuff. A good rule of thumb is "if you have to ask, don't do it." People in the comics biz are sometimes surprisingly unaware of legal matters. recently, I came across a memo I wrote back in the Marvel days explaining to the editors and creators why they couldn't use real or even potentially real phone numbers in the books.
"Jim, could I also make a recommendation? Mark Waid's current run on DAREDEVIL doesn't invent a new character, obviously, but it almost feels like it does, given how well he moves away from the 30-year conventional wisdom established by Frank Miller that Daredevil is necessarily "grim and gritty." I love those Miller stories a lot, but I'm digging Waid's run because its sense of humor and optimism is such a breath of fresh air, and feels new while being solidly tied in to the longer history of the character (sorry if this feels vague– I'm trying to give a sense of the tone without spoiling the narrative). It's a nice reminder that older characters can still generate new twists if the creators are open to taking that risk. And Waid does such a good job of blending character and action– wonderfully aided by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin's bright, clean art–that each issue feels jam-packed and full. I think you'd enjoy it."
Nothing against Waid who I love as well, but Karl Kesel and Cary Nord bucked the trend in the mid-late '90s first, accompanied by Woodyesque Nord art and even a return of Gene Colan.
Om- interesting stuff. A nitpick and a polite disagreement:
1. I don't think that any die-hard, long -time Stones fans would consider "The Last Time" too obscure to have in their collections. it was the Stones first #1 single written by Jagger/Richards, & its on at least 3 of the major US Stones compilations, including High Tides and Green Grass, the first real "greatest hits" package the band put out. Its not on Hot rocks, true, but it is on More Hot Rocks & a few other compilations. Not that this effects the substance of anything you've said one bit-that's why its a nitpick.
2. I'd disagree about the talent that it takes to put together a song out of samples (which is technically done by producers/DJs, not rappers themselves). Musicians who play traditional instruments work with recycled materials to, to a degree, and, especially in Jazz, they also quote other compositions and use their basic structures as the basis for new songs. I'm not saying that there isn't a difference- working with samples doesn't require you to physically execute the way Jazz performance does, but I've also known alot of talented guitar players who could execute complex licks all day long but didn't have the conceptual/composition skills needed to build an interesting song from the bits and pieces of other songs.
anyway, just my two cents. Agreed on the egregiousness of Allen Klein.
I admit nothing.
Page rate is what a creator is paid for each printed page. A script for a 22 page comic book pays page rate X 22 no matter whether the script's page count is 50 or 100.
(Continued from previous post. JayJay obviously has the "Don't let OM ramble on a roll" feature turned on :))
…It should probably be noted that the whole issue raised its head when (c)Rappers started using sampling in the place of actual talent. Apparently there's a clause in "Fair Use" that allows the copyright holder of the "sampled" material to have Right of Refusal – ergo, if you're using clip art and you bother to ask permission in advance, and the artist/copyright holder tells you "no way, dude! Fork over some dough and we'll talk." then essentially you'll need to find another source to sample. Failure to do so – especially if you *didn't* ask first – can result in legal action against the sampler if the rights holder chooses to do so. While it's not worth the while for a publisher to go after a fanzine, or even a "heavy-semi-pro fan-oriented historical analysis publication" – Kirby Kwotes added for emphasis – where the music industry is concerned sampling became a *very* big deal.
…Ironically, the most in/famous case of a music rightsholder going after a sampler didn't involve (c)Rap music at all. The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" included a repetitive sample from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra recording of The Rolling Stones' 1965 song "The Last Time." – a recording that even some of the most die-hard, long-time Stones fans considered "too obscure" to even have in their collections. Although the Verve had secured permission to use samples from this particular cover, the late, ungreat and unmissed Allen Klein got wind of the usage, and after "Symphony" became a megahit on the charts and got regular rotation on Empty-V – anyone remember when they played music videos? – file a lawsuit arguing the band had used "too much" of the sample.
This is Allen "Ron Decline" Klein here. One *note* would have been grounds to sue upon in his books. Provided you could find them.
(See? I just sampled there. "Fair Use", Lorne Michaels and Eric Idle. Nyah :P)
…Anyway, to sum things up, despite the Stones' desire to just see a 50/50 split in the royalties/profits, Klein's team of sharks, shysters and ambulance chasers demanded 100% once it became clear just how much money was involved. And, of course, with the MPAA involved as well, Klein got the money, although to this day the Stones a) really don't know if they really ever saw a dime of it, and b) most of them have gone on the record in interviews to the effect, as Keith Richards put it, "I'm out of whack here, this is serious lawyer shit. If The Verve can write a better song, they can keep the money."
…So I guess this brings us to our Q&A portion of this panel. Jim? What's your take on "Fair Use"? Is there an easily-definable limit to what constitutes "too much", or is it simply a case of being at the mercy/whim of the rightsholder(s)?
…Dennis the Menace's former Uncle Jimbo sez:
"Does anyone know about the changes Brett is talking about?"
…Jim, it's my understanding that it wasn't exactly a 'change' per se, but simply someone legally explaining to the Big Two – and a lot of other publishers – what the terms "Fair Use" mean, and what it meant they could *NOT* prohibit. AIUI, this is what allows guys like the great John Morrow to put out the majority of his publications – especially Alter Ego and the immortal Jack Kirby Collector – over at TwoMorrows Publishing.
…From my own experiences in publishing and journalism, even back as far as 1977, not long after the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed, we had to make sure that any major quotations and/or photographs and/or use of *any* thing resembling clip art had to a) have the source cited in the fine print, and especially b) a "Fair Use" disclaimer attached. IIRC, before I graduated High School, one of the school district's ambulance chasers got a clarification from some judge's ruling that we only had to put the "Fair Use" disclaimer in what Jim would call the "Splash Page Indicia" – down at the bottom where all the legalese is supposed to go. I *think* we did that on the Daily Texan, and I know we did that on our NROTC newsrag, but as far as comics go, it wasn't until much later that the terms of "Fair Use" appeared to have been explained to the entire publishing industry.
…Anyone else having problems posting comments this evening?
Have enjoyed your insights into comics history.
Question: When the term "page rate" for a plot or script is used – does this mean:
A) The number of pages in the final comic OR
B)The number of pages that the script comes out to regardless of how many pages the comic is. (e.g. The script is 10 pages long describing 22 comic pages – did you get paid for the amount of pages the script was, or the amount of pages the final comic was?)
Thank you for your continued insights.
Jim Galton was long gone by 2001. I think getting in touch with me re: the Korvac sequel was all Joe Quesada's idea. I don't recall ever saying that I'm "driven more by the architecture of a story than by character." I am, and always have been a writer of character-driven stories. Character comes first, absolutely. No reason the story can't be well-constructed also.
I hadn't thought of that.
BTW, thanks for Secret Wars. As a kid around 9 yrs old, I knew Spidey and Hulk from cartoons but no other Marvel characters. I picked up a handful of Superman and Archie comics, but not much.
At a flea market, I saw them on the cover of Secret Wars 1 #1 with a whole bunch of characters I didn't know. I bought it, read it that night and was blown away. I loved everyone.
I went back the next day and got every other issue he had. He didn't have 2 or 3, and i didn't read them for like 20 yrs. But he had every other issue.
The concept of this supreme being that was intrigued by Human desire, Doom's lust for that power, the idea that Magneto could straddle the bad guys and good guy side because of his ideals, the Doom confrontation with Galactus, Collossus and the alien woman's touching romance, Collossus' brave decision to fight, resulting in the bolt from the blue by Doom, Doom's doubts bringing his enemies back…
I could go on and on. An amazing number of absolutely cool ideas and "heavy" concepts for a 9 yr old to think about. totally made me a Marvel fan for life. I bought the comics, the Marvel Masterworks of old issues, and continue to this day to love the characters.
All because of Secret Wars. and I still think it is the best portrayal of Doc Doom this side of Stan Lee.
I wasn't there, but I'd bet Stan wasn't paid for the plot. He probably just considered it part of the nine-to-five, as Mort and other editors did when they dictated plots to writers.
The marvel artists in general would not have been paid for plotting since they did not even get credit or co-plotting
But Ditko would seem to be an exception.
Based on what I've read, I'm pretty sure Marvel artists were not paid for plotting or co-plotting. That was one of the big bones of contention for Ditko, Kirby, and Wood, and a significant factor in why they left.
re: the Jim Galton thing. I wrote a letter to Marvel, around that time, saying how much Marvel had gone downhill since 'the good old days', and suggesting that they rehire 'someone who really cares about the characters, like Jim Shooter'. I think I also suggested that they could get you to write something equivalent to the Korvac saga (I also wrote highlighting errors in Marvel Universe). I wonder if my letter prompted Galton to get in touch with you. If I'd known that those were the kind of terms & conditions you had to work to, I wouldn't have bothered. You're treated more like a performing seal than an expert in your field, with decades of practical experience. It's a pity the sequel to the Korvac Saga couldn't be realized, if George Perez & Pablo Marcos could be tempted. I suppose they are both doing other things. Moreover,Perez doesn't seem to draw in the same style, anymore. A few years ago, I breezed through an Avengers, and saw Thor was drawn with a cutesy, turned up nose, rather than with aquiline features. I wonder if Disney wants the books made less threatening (although with some of the stuff, these days, it hardly seems likely), for a younger target audience. I know you've said, elsewhere, that you're driven more by the architecture of a story, than by character. However, the final battle with Korvac seemed very much linked to character. For example, Wonder Man's lack of self-belief (that had been a recurring theme over the past year)was finally put to rest, as Simon realized (perhaps erroneously)that stopping Korvac was the reason why he'd been brought back from the dead. Captain America represented the human potential, not being a superman or a god, he nevertheless believed he would find a way to stop Korvac. Iron Man revealed his pragmatism / real politique, being willing to threaten Carina, in ways that the Panther, for example, would find dishonourable. etc! Surely, character must play some role in your plotting (?)
The early Thors and Iron Mans and Ant Mans would have presumably paid Lee for the plot and Lieber for the 'script' (words) since they were specifically credited that way in some fashion though that was years before 1969. they may not have had any particular rate for plot by 69, since things were usually just credited writer/artist or writer/penciler/inker by then.
I reported my conversation with Stan about payment for plotting accurately. Why would Stan be paid for plotting in the sixties, while he was writing everything? Are you sure Ayers and Ditko were paid for plotting? Credited, yes, but paid?
The 2001 Marvel page rate was $120, half for plot, half for script.
The DC 2007-2008 page rate was $200.
I'll check Daredevil out. I'm a Mark Waid fan.
Lee's deposition comments:
Q. How were you paid in connection with the work as Editor and as a writer?
STAN LEE: I received a salary which paid me as Editor and Art Director, but I got paid on a freelance basis for the stories that I wrote.
Q. And when you say you were paid on a freelance basis, how were you paid? On what basis?
STAN LEE: The same as every other writer. I was paid per page, so much money per page of script.
Q. There was a fixed amount of money —
STAN LEE: Yes.
Q. — for each page?
STAN LEE: Yes.
Q. And was there a policy or did you have a policy to pay writers and artists on that per page rate whether or not the page was actually used or published?
STAN LEE: Oh, yes. Even if we didn't publish — if an artist drew a 10-page story, and the artist rate was $20 a page, I would put in a voucher for $200 for that artist. Now, if — and this happened rarely — but if we decided not to use that story, the artist would still keep the money because he had done the work. It wasn't his fault. So — and that's the way it was. Everybody was paid per page.
Wow, what a revelation. Really gives the nuts and bolts of slugging it out in the big leagues.
Always liked the idea of big corps "buying" talent. Let me re-phrase that. Big corps buy talent.
I just want to sit on that for a minute. Picture it as a headline on the Daily Planet, and catch the Clark Kent by-line. Watch it get crumpled up, and left on the street, as …
Waitaminute, do they still have newspapers? Scene change to a television news program, and watch the anchors banter on about … "talent." Oh wait, that never happened. Most of those conversations, and water cooler chatter, are rehashings of the corporate-compiled talking points, distributed originally, from the "talent." How much "talent" does so-and-so got? Just so's he/she don't draws outside the lines.
So, the corp gets to own, lock, stock, and barrel, the musings of the "talent." Disposable talent, I might add. Disposable … something wrong about all that. Yet, it's money, or it's sales, depending. Sad.
Jim, Lee testified in his recent deposition that while working with Kirby he was paid a freelance page rate for his writing on top of his salary as editor. There were a number of people working for Marvel in the 60's who were credited and paid for plotting stories. Lee, Ditko, Ayers.
My thought on the issue revolves around the idea that selling original art is a significant income for artists. It definitely is. But isn't that because comic work can be few and far between, and imply that they are sustained by the income provided by it?
Maybe if Disney can clean up the comic industry (in a way), they can increase sales and perhaps offer better compensation to artists. Maybe then selling originals won't be as necessary.
That might not be the case, but it's a bright side.
I don't see Disney worrying about the physical artwork. But i do see them potentially cracking down on commissions. It's no longer just some old artist now struggling selling a commission very cheaply to get by
I think one year a couple of years back, someone calculated the amount of money John Byrne made in commission that year and it was six figures. From properties owned by Warner Bros and now Disney.
Interestingly, Byrne would refuse Lucasfilm and Disney themed commissions, worried about their lawyers. But now Marvel characters are Disney.
There seems to be a lot of commission money out there that they may want a piece of or simply to crack down for control.
I don't think it follows logically that because Batman and Spider-Man have hit movies, that there's this large untapped market for the comics. Reading is, Harry Potter aside, less and less in favor. and the simple truth is, they don't need superhero comics to experience superheroes. There are now a ton of cartoons, movies, and most importantly realistic video games where they can experience, see, and with video games, actually be a superhero and live in that world.
Not to mention the pseudo superhero stuff, everything from Mickey Mouse Cartoons to Super Why to big budget movies that, while not based on a comic, are very similar to superheroes in the sci fi and fantasy context. and CGI makes everything possible that would have been lousy looking 30 yrs ago.
The public is awash in superheroes and similar themed characters.
they just don't need the comics.
I meant to write: Comics can be and (of course) *are* being done digitally, of course.
I'd wager that the vast majority of comics illustrators (my guess: 95%) don't work digitally for their pencils & inks. So they basically wouldn't have a choice but to work on paper.
Comics can be and (of course) is being done digitally, of course. Doesn't mean it's as good as 'practical' artwork. I don't think there are too many people who digitally 'pencil & ink' that are near as good as others who do the artwork on real paper. Not yet, and likely not for a very long time, due to the technological limitations of the software.
Pete Marco showed me the other day that Brian Denham's work is done digitally, and it's solid work. It's just not (to my taste) great work, as the difference between digital inks and practical inks is GLARINGLY DIFFERENT.
Also that the digital inks are simply not as good.
You simply cannot get great brush line quality with digital inks. It's so easy to spot when rendering lines (thick to thin) are done 'manually', whereas with a real brush or quill dip pen, those lines are much more natural and organic.
Digital inked linework quality is nowhere near the quality of practical inks.
Digital inks/full illustrations could certainly become the norm, but I believe most people will greatly miss (whether they can identify it specifically or not) the better 'hand' inking.
If they no longer have that avenue open (to keep/sell their original work-for-hire art), then of course there will be adjustments, likely due to their impacted income.
The industry will be so much poorer (in so many ways) for it.
I would think if artists did pages electronically you could (possibly) sell more copies of prints of one page. Granted, hand drawn pages should have a higher value since there is only one of them.
Yeah, then Disney will send their goon squad to retrieve their hard-drives, then someone will resist, then the billy clubs will come out, then teeth will be busted, then V will start blowing shit up.
No…too many comics?…me?
It seems that if Disney does retain all rights to the original artwork it might push more professionals into the realm of doing everything digitally. Many artists I've spoken to in the last few years only continue to do hand drawn pages because the originals are another way to make money. If they no longer have that avenue open and technology makes things easier why create and original that you have to give up?
I could be reading it wrong, but considering most writing work these days is full script, which basically encompasses both plotting and scripting, I'm assuming the final pay to the writer is $120/page. That sounds closer to the figures I've heard, especially for a "known" talent.
$60 per page? Wasn't Neil Gaiman getting at least $65 in the early '90s?
Jim Shooter – "Too many permutations, too much playing with old toys. They need to create."
I agree with you but there aren't any more innovators like Jack Kirby in the industry today. Only marketers and they can't create.
Anonymous, I wouldn't say comics should PURELY aim themselves at adults. There should be a variety of options for different age groups. To sustain comics as a business it's important to bring in new, young readers as well as to keep the older readers around, not to mention attract people back who quit reading as they grew up and even bring in new older readers.
It doesn't seem to me that comics are doing a good job of appealing to any age group. They seem to just be targetting a more and more insular audience. They're trying to hang onto the readers they have, putting out geek-focused books for people who already know everything about the characters, their history and the medium. That audience happens to be getting older, but the companies aren't appealing to them on the basis of how their real lives are changing, just on how intensely versed in comics lore they are.
I don't see good entry points for new readers, young or old. DC is trying to do that now in a big way, but I wish they had combined that with some new vision and defined a real change in tone or direction for their universe. As it is, it looks like more of the same with a new coat of paint slapped on it.
I don't see how anyone can ignore the success of Batman Begins and Dark Knight and not think that more ongoing superhero comics with that sort of tone, complexity and maturity would help the industry. Dark Knight wasn't just a cult favorite or a niche graphic novel, it sold more tickets domestically than any other superhero movie before, and not just because it was people's first chance to see these characters on the screen. I think we'll find out the third film in the series will also open huge, proving it wasn't just the Joker that people were interested in either.
Are comics doing that kind of stuff now? I don't read enough to tell you for sure. I seem to see comics that are dark in tone, violent and humorless, but not ones that put in the psychological complexity and unblinking sense of realism that are what really define a storyline as being something for mature readers. Intelligent writing is important no matter what the genre and style is. I just think that the intelligent writing needs to be wedded to material geared for mature adult readers at this point. To me, that's where the most easily accessible untapped market potential lies right now.
Of course, superheroes don't equal comics and comics don't equal superheroes. Any expansion in the medium should include expanding the offerings of other genres, which DC is now trying to do to some extent. It just seems unlikely to me that it could save the industry on its own if the core superhero comics aren't fixed up first.
I also refuse to believe that the medium is inevitably fated to die off (as long as you consider print and electronic comics the same medium, since print WILL die). That will only happen if comics fail to deliver high quality that competes with the quality of TV, movies, books, etc. It's not the mere existence of those other mediums that causes comics to decline; that only happens when those mediums have more entertaining and satisfying content. If Harry Potter can be a smash success in an even older medium than comic books, then comics still have a chance.
Piggybacking on the digital art subject, just how could any company today enforce a no return policy on art (short of contractually making it illegal to sell the physical boards) when almost no one sends in originals anymore? Even though I work in traditional paint I've been scanning and delivering tiff files for years. Judging from recent conversations I've had with several production people I'm not sure anyone at (pick a company) would have any idea what to do with an original painting if I sent one in today.
Sure, Runaways, Jessica Jones, Cloak and Dagger are 'supposed' to make it to TV. Along with a dozen others that have been talked about for the last two decades.
Get back to me when it actually happens. I'll hold my breath (and only Cloak and Dagger from that list are even worth the ink they are drawn with IMHO).
Jim, let me also endorse Avengers Acadamy as a good read. From a guy that was reading something like fifty books a month under your tenure (from all the companies), that is one of only TWO books that I HAVE to read every month (other being the new Alpha Flight).
There have been a couple of months lately where I'm not even sure I even picked up any other books at all.
BTW Jim, that $60/page rate? Was that near the top end of the scale due to your experience and long history, or toward the bottom of the scale due to you being somewhat 'out of favor'? Just curious how they viewed your worth in a creative sense.
Jim, could I also make a recommendation? Mark Waid's current run on DAREDEVIL doesn't invent a new character, obviously, but it almost feels like it does, given how well he moves away from the 30-year conventional wisdom established by Frank Miller that Daredevil is necessarily "grim and gritty." I love those Miller stories a lot, but I'm digging Waid's run because its sense of humor and optimism is such a breath of fresh air, and feels new while being solidly tied in to the longer history of the character (sorry if this feels vague– I'm trying to give a sense of the tone without spoiling the narrative). It's a nice reminder that older characters can still generate new twists if the creators are open to taking that risk. And Waid does such a good job of blending character and action– wonderfully aided by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin's bright, clean art–that each issue feels jam-packed and full. I think you'd enjoy it.
I can picture an "it's always sunny in Philadelphia", with costumes and powers, and I can imagine myself buying that book as soon as it hits the stands.
If there is such a book, gimme the title, and I'm a cartoon dust cloud heading towards TFAW.
The last thing comics need to do is aim themselves purely at adults. They more or less do that already, and superhero stories just can't handle that type of baggage.
Comparisons like that always fail anyway. If my dad was a corrections officer today, he'd make $100,000 a year and being doing very well. but he was a correction officer in the 80s and he made much less and did just ok. The way of the world.
Dear mr ed,
When I worked briefly at Marvel in late 1969, I asked about writing freelance. At that point, Stan was still writing almost everything, so there was nothing available. I proposed writing plots for Stan as a freelance gig. He wasn't totally averse to the idea, but that had never come up before, and he had no idea what Marvel should pay for plots. He proposed $10 per plot. I said no thank you.
Remember, Stan was on staff. I don't know whether he got paid extra for writing, in addition to his staff salary. I never asked. But, in any case, it's apples and bananas comparing Stan's writing days with Marvel in 2001.
Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check Avengers Academy out when I can.
Interesting that in 2001 Marvel valued plotting at $60 per page, and scripting at $60 per page.
Assuming Jack Kirby and the other Marvel artists working with Stan Lee contributed 50% or more to the plots you have to wonder how many hundreds of dollars a month Lee was pocketing which should have gone to the artists. If Kirby's contributions to plots was worth even two dollars a page in 1958-1964 that would often have amounted to $200 a month, no small change in adjusted for inflation dollars. And during that time period DC was paying artists working from full scripts around twice as much per page as Marvel was paying.
Have you read Avengers Academy? Not only have they created new characters, but they've created a heck of a comic book, and even did a nice take on Korvac. I think you'd like it- it's one of those rare books that not only is fun, but it gets the storytelling craft aspects right. Great book.
God, I love this blog.
These videos were posted on the Marvel Comics of the 1980's website. The 20/20 special on Marvel's 25th anniversary. Jim and Stan are featured. Pretty cool.
Yes, I accepted the DC reprint offer.
Too many permutations, too much playing with old toys. They need to create.
Touchmark came along after I was no longer involved.
Editing a creator-owned line is much more pass/fail and a little help as opposed to directing, teaching and whatever it takes to get it right…or at least make the cut.
Disney wanted Marvel for it's merchandising potential.
Off the top of my head, my relatives and friends have 50 sons & daughters under the age of 12. They all know who Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man and the rest are; not from reading comics, but from toys, cartoons, backpacks, plastic mugs, t-shirts and so on.
(If the kids have any questions, the parents always pass them onto me. I once had to explain to a 3 year old girl why the Silver Surfer was sad.)
Out of that 50, only one boy has discovered comic books and spends some of his pocket money buying UK Marvel Panini reprints. The rest have no interest. As they like to remind me, "That's what old people did when they were little.".
I wonder if my father's generation would feel some sadness because my generation had no interest in collecting stamps because that's what old people did when they were little. Instead, we had our comic books to collect and swap.
"Dusty, you know he reads this blog sometimes… :)" – Thunder
Yeah, I know, but that isn't going to stop me from telling like it is to protect anyone's overly sensitive feelings who might be reading. All I did was speak the truth. Tom is blunt, himself, so I doubt he's in a corner somewhere crying because I put it bluntly about what his attitude toward questions about page rates comes off like. It's no big deal to know that info, or to know how many issues that the latest Thor sold, but he acts like it's a personal insult to ask. Others at Marvel do the same. That kind of secrecy only raises more questions.
I'm not a single-issue pamphlet, I am a comic book.
Elektra was an '80s character who starred in a movie, but it's understandable if you forgot. '80s-'90s villains and supporting characters have been common enough in Marvel movies, including the alien costume and Venom, Iron Monger, War Machine, Blackheart, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Pyro, William Stryker, Leech, Dark Phoenix, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Deadpool, and, last but not least, Samuel L. Fury.
G.I. Joe and Transformers are two big properties that Marvel helped develop in the '80s. The G.I. Joe movie took a good amount of inspiration from Larry Hama's version of the mythos.
It makes sense that older characters would be the first to star in movies. That's why Superman got a movie decades before Spidey and Fantastic Four. Superman had been around long enough to be well-known by a wide, all-ages audience.
Big-budget movies are usually made by middle-aged people, who will naturally focus on characters they knew as kids. That's why Raimi was reluctant to use Venom. 20 years from now, new directors may be more interested in using characters being invented today.
But I'm not sure if creating new characters should be a major goal. Hasbro made the mistake of killing off Optimus Prime in the 1986 Transformers movie, hoping to sell toys based on new characters. Of course kids were upset and Hasbro soon brought him back to life. They then hastily reedited their G.I. Joe animated movie in which series star Duke died to indicate that he survived in the end.
Hasbro continually pushed fan-favorite characters out of their storylines to introduce new ones. The popularity of the toys soon declined. They learned that an established, well-known character is a valuable brand name that's not easily replaced.
Still, I don't want to sound like the guy 100 years ago who said that everything had already been invented. Characters and genres do need to be reinvented when the time is right. DC didn't do that in the '60s. Marvel filled the void and stayed flexible enough to make stars out of grim and gritty types like Wolverine and Punisher in the '80s.
Given the weakened state comic books are in, one has to ask whether the companies are responding properly to the changing times. Do the characters need to be revamped to stay relevant? Or are they becoming so irrelevant, like cowboys and Indians did, that more drastic changes or all-new characters are necessary?
It does seem like true creativity and imagination is lacking in current comics. We see a lot of shiny, new stuff on the surface, but few fundamentally new ideas or new ways of looking at superheroes.
My instinct is to say we need more realism in the stories, a questioning of every cliche of the genre and a challenging of every assumption about the audience. That's what worked for Marvel's flawed '60s heroes, their '80s antiheroes and Jim's science-fact-based Valiant universe. It's also what made Chris Nolan's Batman movies so popular in America. The fact that Spider-Man 3 did better overseas shows how sophisticated Americans are when it comes to the superhero genre. I think many would embrace the genre advancing into mature, complex storytelling aimed primarily at adults.
Sometimes pure fantasy works though, going all the way back to Action Comics #1. Some may be tired of the darkness and want more untouchable, godlike heroes again. The biggest superhero of the last 20 years, Harry Potter, indicates that younger people still embrace straightforward heroes and villains stories. Even the recent political environment has indicated that Americans wanted to invest their faith in someone they saw as a flawless savior, something unthinkable in the cynical '70s that ushered in the dawn of the antihero.
Just think about how different a position the industry would be in now if Harry Potter had debuted as a comic book instead of a novel. Perhaps the industry just isn't attracting the talent it needs to. These stories don't write themselves, at least not the good ones.
Thanks for the link! Klein's article was very informative. And that roster of talent! How many of those creators were still so under the radar over 20 years ago…wow.
i don't recall seeing whether you accepted the DC reprint offer.
Dusty, you know he reads this blog sometimes… 🙂
Jim, thank you for posting those page rates! I have seen people ask people like Tom Brevoort very politely what the rates were, only to get a rude "none of your business" attitude. I don't get this. The salary of an actor is no big secret. Politician salaries (legal income, that is!) is no big secret. My salary isn't something I get rude about when somebody asks me what the money is like in my field. But ask Tom Brevoort, as one example, what kind of rates Marvel pays, and he gives an answer that not only comes off rude, but makes it look like Marvel is overpaying their boys' club pals and doesn't want anyone to know, and he's sensitive to the question.
I am so glad you posted this!
Hi Jim, first comment here though I've been following your site for awhile now. I'd echo Marc Miyake's question in wondering your thoughts on how editing a creator-owned line would be different from editing a work-for-hire line, and if that's something you were ever interested in doing?
Eisner's been out of the picture from Disney since early or mid 2005. And I agree, it does feel like the overall temperament of Disney has been different since Iger's been in charge. The purchases of both Pixar and Marvel have been under his watch, I believe. I also question whether Disney truly gets comics, but let's face it, that's not what they really got them for. They were more interested in the exploitation of Marvel properties in different media than in the actual comics themselves.
Ah, Disney: A company built largely on the backs of public domain works, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Pinocchio, and Sleeping Beauty (just to name a few), that not only protects its "properties" with a viciousness few corporations can match, but more or less pays for laws to protect said properties for all eternity, so that no else can do what they did, all in the interest of empty suits who had no connection to the creation of anything of worth, ever. If there's a greater enemy to creative freedom in the western world, I'd hate to know.
Not that I care or anything.
Blok 4 Prez
Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona is a great premise from 2003, and being made into a movie.
Jessica Jones is from 2001 being made into a TV show.
And there's even talk of a Cloak & Dagger TV show.
But, yeah, that's a pretty tiny amount of new characters created in the last few decades that Marvel can translate into movies or TV shows.
Hey now, Marvel has all kinds of new ideas!
Like…um…Black Spiderman…and…FF in new white pajamas…and….the whole cast of Hulk being Hulkified…and….Grey Jarella with another name….and..um…*cough*…
*Weeps into hands*
I think Marvel should be sued for using Comic Sans as their typeface of choice for an official, legally-binding contract document. Geez.
Blok 4 Prez
I wonder if the DC reprint policy takes in account digital editions? Those have a much smaller reprint cost (no paper) and will one day be how the majority of books are sold (to be read on your tablet.) Or more likely you will pay a subscription fee to be able to stream the entire DC (or Marvel) library but not download it. The creators of comics are hopefully on top of these changes, in the way the big creative unions in Hollywood are, or they are going to lose a lot of money down the line.
On another note, does anyone know what the page rate is today for writers and artists at Marvel and DC? I assume there's some range, depending if you're well known or not or under exclusive contract (usually only given to those who are well know, I believe.) But I wonder what the average rate is?
Have you seen Todd Klein's logo designs for Touchmark? I didn't understand the reasoning for the name until I read this:
The line was to be called Touchmark, playing off the film company Touchstone, Disney’s similar home for more mature films.
How would editing a creator-owned line like Touchmark be different from editing a work-for-hire line?
I wonder if Disney looked at the Warner Bros./DC setup and figured that it wasn't necessary to do something different and "Disney-ize" Marvel. Moreover, isn't Marvel still the industry leader? A cynic would say, "There's not much of an industry left," but Marvel could say, "Why break what doesn't need to be fixed? We're not the ones who need a New 52." Maybe there were battles between Disney and Marvel brass over "Disney-ization." I have no idea. But if the New 52 fails, Disney could use that to argue against the status quo and shift to the system that ja dreads.
Thank you for sharing the legal documentation from Marvel and DC. This site has become a history archive.
I never expected to see a Marvel document in Comic Sans. What an odd font choice for formal writing. Did the legal department think it was fitting for a comic book company? They switched to Times New Roman later.
I look forward to learning about your time at Disney. I consider that period to be a big mystery, since I've read your accounts of your last days at Marvel and the beginning of VALIANT but haven't seen much about what happened in between.
The trouble with Marvel is that the golden goose hasn't laid an egg in years. Jim pointed out in this interview that
Some day the little light bulb will go on [in Warner Bros.' head] that most of the [DC] characters that have been movies were done so before 1940.
Similarly, most of the Marvel characters in the movies were created before 1980. I can't think of any Marvel movie named after a post-1970s character.
Disney may say to Marvel, "We already know the old properties work. That's why we bought you in the first place. But you're supposed to be developing new properties for us. You're supposed to be the House of Ideas. Our House of Ideas. It's time for a change …"
But as Jim wrote two years ago, such a change could backfire.
What next? Those of us outside the boardrooms can only wait and see …
Jim, was that brief window of time with Disney in anyway involving the prospective-but-never-actually-birthed Touchmark line? Many of those (creator-owned) books went on to be published among the first wave of titles in the early days of Vertigo. And all were incredible incredible incredible.
The "returning original art" issue becomes less pertinent each year as there is less physical "original art" to go around with more and more creators working digitally.
And thanks as usual for sharing all this stuff. I'm actually rather impressed with how plainly the language in the Marvel WFH contract is stated.
When you say you expected Marvel to be gone within the year, I assume you mean by incompetence, and not by design.
Cuz, I can't see them strangling the golden goose that laid the Iron-Man/Cap/Thor/Avengers series of films.
This Article on "The Great Artist Heist" at DC may interest you…
When did Eisner leave Disney? I think there has been a change in attitude in some degree since that event. I question whether Disney 'gets' comics to begin with. When the deal was announced I expected MARVEL to basically be gone within a year, the opposite has happened. I wouldn't be too sure that they will change the art return policy anytime soon, if at all.
By the way, I notice the writers got a better royalty rate then the artists do in the DC Reprint program. I wonder how they compute artwork returns?
Emilio Torres Jr.
Dear Mr. Shooter:
Thank you for another excellent post.
$60.00 a page seemed like a low rate, but then I considered that most "paced for the trade" books these days are so decompressed that a page typically consists of four panels or less.