Steve Bissette weighs in on the Platinum situation, where creators have signed away most of their rights and are now not being paid:
Welcome to the 21st Century, where abuse of creators is rampant and the illusion that all the battles were won and such affairs somehow aren’t Creator Rights issues is part of what allows outfits like Platinum to get away with this kind of crap.
Of course, they have the now-tradition of the 1990s (e.g., Scott Rosenberg, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, etc.) to depend upon — after all, Rob and Todd published and continue to publish work by prominent creators they didn’t treat fairly and haven’t paid a dime in reprint or royalties to, so what’s to stop others from emulating the same behavior?
Scott Rosenberg has been quite public about why he publishes comics, and what he and Platinum are about. The Comic Book Challenge, like the recent debacle over TokyoPop, is simply put a program legally designed to elevate, exploit and legally separate a creator from their creative property for Platinum’s financial gain.
We don’t have time to give this all that it deserves, but the saddest part of the whole Platipop situation is that us old timers stood there telling these kids it was a bad idea. We’ve been saying it for years. And the kids storm out of the room, saying “I can handle it! I’m a grown up!” And then, a few years later, sheepishly, they admit maybe they didn’t quite know what was going on at the time.
Bissette goes on to write: “Isn’t it time for the creative community to aggressively pool resources and quit acting like Creator Rights isn’t a war that was won, or somehow doesn’t apply to them?”
He’s right. Other companies are are putting out bad contracts right this minute. And trusting creators are signing them. That’s the sad part. Every time we think we’ve killed the snake a new bunch of rubes gets off the bus and signs the same yokel contract. And that’s why the snake will never die. They know they will always have a fresh and willing pool of talent to steal from.
But it isn’t just signing away your own creations with a work for hire contract. The sickness has spread to Hollywood, we hear. You know all those “such and such has been optioned” announcements that arrive every day? There is no set amount of money for an option. It could be between $500-$750K, as with Jeff Smith for Bone. Or it could be $1.
Now, not everything is a beloved classic like Bone, but increasingly, we hear, creators are settling for far less than their books are worth on the open market with a resulting devaluation of comics properties on the market.
Granted, its hard not to fall for the first cute guy at the dance who shows an interest in you when you’ve been sitting down sipping punch for years. You believe in your creation so much you just want to get it out there at any price! Once you get it out there, fame and fortune are sure to follow!
That’s what Siegel and Shuster thought; and Jack Kirby, and Mart Nodell and Joe Simon and all the rest. They were just grateful to be paid, grateful to put some food in their families’ mouths.
Interestingly, Bob Kane knew better — or at least his family did. His father insisted he get his rights on paper and even gamed the system himself:
Bob Kane had his father (a printer who knew the industry) represent him and negotiate a very good contract on his behalf. During the period where Siegel and Shuster were suing for Superman, Bob Kane would tell DC he was a minor when he signed his original contract. Faced with potential lawsuits of both their biggest cash cows, DC would renegotiate a much better deal with Kane. Truth was, Kane was in his early 20’s when he co-created Batman. As per then Jewish tradition, Kane’s father got rid of his son’s birth certificate. Without any paperwork indicating Kane’s actual birth date the courts would have to rely on the word of his family. Kane said his family was willing to lie on his behalf.
There is always an option. There are always alternatives. But as long as the kids keep thinking they’re all grown up and don’t listen to the warnings of the people who’ve already been there, the theft will continue.