By Ruben Bolling at 9:20 am Wed, May 9, 2012
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It’s sad because it’s true.
Read your employment contract carefully, boys and girls.
And then sign it anyways.
22-year-old art school grad: “Sir, before I start I’d like you to completely overhaul how artists get compensated in this industry.”
Publisher: “Well, then! By all means, please go f*ck yourself.”
A shitty contract is a shitty contract, and certainly the average 22-year-old art school grad is going to get reamed by one. Just because it makes us sad doesn’t mean there’s a legal case.
What’s more interesting is that Kirby’s become an object lesson for what newer artists don’t want to become, and the internet is providing the means.
Which is swell and all, but you still haven’t addressed the points that Kirby (1) was not an employee and (2) did not sign a contract.
Part of the reason people talk about this is to try and shame DC and Marvel into NOT DOING THIS ANY MORE. Yes, they may be on firm legal ground. But they are NOT on firm moral ground. Should we allow corporations to get away with this kind of stuff simply because it’s legal? Laws are supposed to be part of the ethical code of a society, after all. Maybe some laws need changing. What’s considered a “normal” contract for a long-term artist/corporation relationship like this certainly does.
And it’s especially bad when it’s coming from companies who peddle stories about SUPERHEROS. Who fight crime and injustice.
Right now they’re still doing this shit. DC’s doing “Before Watchmen” in part to keep on owning the characters long past the original intent of the contracts Moore and Gibbons signed. Marvel’s sued one of the dudes who created “Ghost Rider” into oblivion.
Well, no, DC doesn’t need to publish Before Watchmen in order to keep the rights to the characters; they just need to keep the original in print. They see Before Watchmen as a way to make some extra money on the property, just like the movie was.
(I think that, long-term, it’ll be a blip on the radar; it’ll have strong immediate sales and then everything will go back to status quo — rather like last year’s New 52. DC’s current management doesn’t seem very good at long-term thinking; they’re good at ways to make a few bucks fast, but they haven’t worked out how to draw in new readers and keep them.)
But yes, Moore is absolutely pissed about what’s happened with Watchmen. Gibbons — well, he enthusiastically participated in the movie; he’s given his approval for the prequels but said nothing more about them, which strikes me as something of a tepid endorsement.
It does bear remembering that Gibbons IS an equal co-creator, and Moore has a pretty checkered history with his co-creators. He’s disowned Gibbons, Lloyd, and Bissette, to name a few, and refuses even to speak to them anymore.
Yeah, just like all those terms-of-use agreements, right?
WHAT employment contract?
You mean the one printed on the back of your paycheck? That’s how the comics companies used to do it in Kirby’s day.
So Marvel says. They haven’t actually been able to produce any stamped checks prior to 1970.
There’s no evidence that Kirby signed any contract with Marvel prior to 1975, back-of-the-check or otherwise.
Nothing says “successful career in art” like a long drawn out legal battle after death!
I enjoyed this comic. Love the dots. I am glad that people are finding out about Kirby (and other such artists), even though it takes a mega-corp to make movies about them to get that trickle-down exposure.
Reminds me of this recent comic by Cliff Galbraith about Stan Lee and Kirby http://ratbastardcomics.com/2011/10/12/piece-for-jack-kirby-tribute-gallery-show-at-maxwells-for-ny-comic-con/
In his deposition in Marvel v Kirby, Lee claimed that he came up with the idea of making Thor be the son of Odin.
I’m not joking.
Not sure why Disney is mentioned. Yes, they own Marvel now, but that was only recently – and not while Kirby was alive.
Kirby got the short end of the stick – but so did most of the early creators. I bet most of the creators had no idea their characters would last become so popular – that comics in general would last this long.
Why wouldn’t it mention Disney? Disney is the company that is profiting from the movie. (Viacom, too, since it’s distributed by Paramount, but Disney owns the characters.)
Stan Lee gets a million dollars a year. And if he dies before his wife does, then SHE gets a million dollars a year until SHE dies.
Kirby should have been given the same deal.
Disney is mentioned here because of their legal battle against Kirby’s heirs.
And before anyone starts up with “poor beleaguered Disney was only defending itself against the greed of the powerful and wealthy Kirby Empire, which filed notices of termination which forced brave little Disney to squash them like a bug” — someone always goes there, in every comment thread anywhere on this topic — Disney could have done the *right* thing and reached a settlement that merely gave Kirby the same degree of credit for his creations Stan Lee always gets. Or indeed, just retroactively give Kirby the same deal that today’s creators get from Marvel! They could have made millions in good PR for a fraction what it costs them to keep fighting the same battles in court every decade. But it’s not in Disney’s corporate DNA to ever do that. And that’s why the Mouse is in that strip.
OH I didn’t realize there was still a lawsuit. I thought they settled that years ago.
Jim Shooter’s blog has some interesting Kirby stories.
Like the one about Marvel refusing to return Kirby’s artwork to him when they were giving most (if not all) of their other artists back theirs?
Gary Groth called Shooter “our Nixon” for a reason…..
I get the impression that Jim Shooter is honest but not truthful — that is to say, when he tells a story, he’s already persuaded himself to remember it that way, and feels genuinely offended when other people tell him it wasn’t that way at all. And yeah, I got that same impression about Nixon: that he was a guy who saw himself as the victim, and everyone else was willfully telling lies just to take him down. It must be sad to live in that world where you’re the one honest, decent person and everyone else is a filthy liar…
Nice homage to BRAZIL there with the “papered” effect. Gilliam’s lawyers have been alerted.
As a small child I had a set of Hulk Underoos.
Best Dancing Bug I’ve seen yet : D
Kudos to Thad Boyd for knowing the facts before commenting.
Kirby worked without a contract of any kind during the years 1958-1963. There was nothing on paper. There was not even an assignment slip, let alone a contract. You would think in a world where the corporation having a contract means they win, the fact there was no contract would mean the freelancer would win, but nope this is Kafka’s AMERIKA we are living in now. The judge said Disney’s case “stands or falls on Lee’s testimony.” She accepted Lee’s testimony he alone created every character before ever speaking to Kirby. The judge gave Lee all the credit (or blame if you trust Kirby rather than Lee) for the outcome of the case.
Also as Thad points out. It was Disney which sued the heirs, not the other way around as is constantly reported.
Hi Patrick. We really should stop meeting like this.
You would think in a world where the corporation having a contract means they win, the fact there was no contract would mean the freelancer would win, but nope this is Kafka’s AMERIKA we are living in now.
Post-1976, having no contract actually WOULD mean the freelancer would win. Doesn’t apply in Kirby’s case, more’s the pity, but if the same situation occurred today, the freelancer would maintain ownership. So that’s some small measure of progress, anyway.
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