Yet another squawk over Platinum and its long languishing library over at Comixpedia where Mike Strang pens a cautionary tale he’d like to call Never sign a Work For Hire contract with Platinum Studios!
Stay away from Platinum Studios and any Work for Hire contracts if you feel attached to your creations. I feel as though I signed my soul over in a deal with the devil.
My name is Mike Strang and I wrote a comic book for them a horror spoof entitled WEIRD ADVENTURES IN UNEMPLOYMENT…
I signed a work for hire contract being naïve and took the little money they gave me up front to write four issues because I was happy to achieve my dream that I was going to be published into a real comic book I can put in my long box next to my beloved Batman collection. That and I would get royalties on the back end when it hit the shelves. To do so I signed the rights to my character Wrigley Barnes trusting them because of the editor in chief there at the time was Lee Nordling, a stand up guy
I worked well and got through what was asked ahead of schedule. After artists mysteriously came and went on the project it was over two years before the thing was actually getting drawn and had a projected solicitation. The first issue was nearly complete and then Lee left the company and the project was shelved.
I heard later after many months from an insider that under new management they were kicking me off my comic and going in another direction and that I was being replaced by another writer. I thought that was shady not telling me anything when I regularly emailed about updating me on news about the project and replacing me on MY CREATION.
There’s much more in the link, a string of unreturned emails, etc. ending in Strang being fired off his own creation.
Sad. You bet. The story continues in the comments, with Platinum creator DJ Coffman (Yirmumah and the Platinum produced Hero at Large)showing up as he so often does to defend Platinum, and Strang showing that he’s still pretty naive with such comments as “My dream is dead” and this:
I made the decision before I started to blog I was done with comics. So I don’t care who won’t work with me now. It’s irrelevant.
I didn’t shit on webcomics either. I just said they’re not my thing. My goal was to have a comic in print to put in my long box next to Batman.
We contacted Platinum for their side of the story, but they declined to comment. And why should they? Strang knew what he was getting into, sort of. There are a lot of lessons to be drawn from all of this, so here’s another installment of Plain Talk From Stately Beat Manor™®© that you just might want to bookmark.
#1: DON’T SIGN A WORK FOR HIRE CONTRACT ON SOMETHING YOU CREATED!!!!! Can we repeat that a few times? While smacking you upside the head? That means you are selling your baby to the gypsies. It’s bad enough when smart people like Dave Roman do it, but by his own admission, Strang had no interest in reading “a contract the size of war and peace worded in legaleese is a bit hard to navigate through for a first timer with no experience in the biz.” That’s right, that’s why you hire a lawyer, or get a friend to read it. Strang couldn’t read it, but he did sign it. Because he wanted that comic book with “Written by Mike Strang” on the cover to put next to his Batman. Do not sign contracts unless you understand what you are signing, especially if it’s your life’s work, as WEIRD ADVENTURES IN UNEMPLOYMENT evidently was for Strang. And in case you didn’t know “Work for hire” means that the company not you created the property and they can fire you off it and change it and take your name off it if they want, unless you have specific language in your contract that says this. But also remember, the rights to your creations are YOURS in perpetuity…unless you specifically sign them away.
#1b: YOUR KINDLY EDITOR WHO YOU LOVE TO WORK WITH MAY GET A BETTER JOB OR GET FIRED!/or conversely THE KINDLY PUBLISHING COMPANY MAY GO BANKRUPT LEAVING YOUR CONTRACT AS AN ASSET. Miracleman, anyone? You may have the best relationship in the world with our editor/publisher, but things may change. Another reason why you need to READ THAT CONTRACT.
#2: PUBLISHERS WHO BUY PEOPLE’S CREATIONS AS WORK FOR HIRE IN THIS DAY AND AGE SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES especially when its for a pittance, which quite a few people try time after time. While it’s hard not to laugh a bit at Strang’s naivete, that doesn’t mean he should have been taken advantage of. And the creative community needs to look out for itself and publicize stories like this to make sure people know they have options. . Once again, some folks, like Dave Roman, and doubtless others went into the deal eyes wide open knowing what it meant. (In addition, you’ve got to remember that seven years ago, the comics industry looked pretty much kaputski.) But not everyone is as educated.
#3: DJ Coffman, you need to stop running around being Platinum’s cop. I’m sure they have treated you very fairly, and you are being honest, but you are coming off like a company shill. You need to be aware that there are some people, like Strang, who have legitimate grievances. Because, you see
#4: The Platinum story is far from over. Call it a gut level feeling. Hundreds of properties in development for seven years? Check out this Google cache of the projects Platinum once had in development, and some of the names involved. One thing that seems clear from the stories emerging is that a lot of people who signed on to Platinum did so with the belief that their stories would some day be published. Literally published in a pen and ink format you can hold in your hands and read on the can. That publishing model has mostly been supplanted by a webcomics model, with the idea, apparently, that if something catches on, it will see print. But we reiterate, there are apparently scores of Platinum properties out there. This remains a great silent society, it seems, but for how long? Maybe some of these stories will even be success stories. We sincerely hope so.
And to finish up, we’ll pass along MacDonald’s Law: If your property that got ripped off was the only thing you had, you weren’t going to have a very long career anyway. Get back up on the horse, kid. There’s got to be more where that came from. Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jerry Robinson, Arnold Drake, Jack Kirby, Steve Gerber, Marv Wolfman…they all got back up on the horse. They kept going. They knew that their ideas were the only gas that kept the car going. Without it, all the contracts in the world are meaningless. Sometimes you gotta look at it this way: if you got ripped off, it must mean you had something valuable in the first place.
Towards the end of the thread, Strang sounds a little more like he’s saddling up again. “I’m taking a class on web design and started my own website pretty soon though. I’m controlling my own ship from now on.” Sail on, you crazy diamond!