This morning’s Cup O’ Joe coffee klatsch between Kiel Phegley and Joe Quesada included a lengthy segment on the whole digital royalty flap from last week. Specifically,Marvel has had them in the works for the last two years, but could only finalize the plans recently — the first payments will be going out soon after San Diego. Quesada explained the rather unorthodox publicity campaign for the roll-out:
Kiel Phegley: I think, really, the question people have been asking most about in terms of this is why Marvel hasn’t been publicizing their plans for royalties in the same way DC did? Is there some specific reason why these issues aren’t made public knowledge?
Joe Quesada: We just didn’t think it was an issue. When we made our announcements that we would have electronic comics on the iPad, iPhone and PSP, that, to me, was the only real announcement that was important for the public to know. Internally what creators make, whether it be their page rate or incentives, wasn’t really an announcement for the general public. The only time I guess an announcement like that would be important to make publicly would have to be if you’re trying to win some sort of public relations war, which I kind of get in some ways. But when we announced our e-comics, the whole incentive issue wasn’t anything we felt we had to advertise. What was important is the fact that we are now in that domain and looking to succeed beyond anyone’s imagination and continue to preach the gospel of the world of comics. You know, now that I think about it maybe my initial answer to your first question was wrong – there might be something to learn here. Next time we announce a new publishing initiative, I’ll see if our marketing team can make it a point to announce that we will be paying creators page rates, incentives and every other little thing we do behind-the-scenes. [Laughs]
Dedicated industry watchers will note that Quesada uses the word “incentive” as opposed to “royalties,” an important distinction on a corporate legal level.
Asked about Marvel’s overal disparity in the royatlies offered, Quesada replies:
There are differences I’m sure. I’m not privy to DC’s entire incentive plan as I’m sure they’re not privy to the entirety of ours. But at the end of the day I’m sure we are better in some areas than they are and they are better than we are in some others. However, I think when you add it all together and you push and pull the numbers, it all breaks down to be about the same. It’s just coming from different pools. However, the big difference is the Marvel books on average and across the board sell more than DC books and that affects incentives in a very, very big way and it’s obvious that Marvel’s iPad announcement really helped cement us as the industry leader.
So the race is still on.
As we said the other day, any transparency that helps creators make informed decisions about the best deal for them — and helps younger creators get some idea of what the business landscape should be like — is a good thing, as far as we’re concerned. And based on our emails and IMs, a lot of creators agree. With Marvel and DC engaged in a fairly aggressive behind-the-scenes for the hearts and minds of creators this summer, you might expect to see a bit more of this kind of thing.
For the comics READERS in the audience, later in the interview, Quesada mentions the recent Avengers summit which included Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction Ed Brubaker and Christos Gage:
We’re talking about much broader stories at this point. Matt and Ed came to the table with a huge, let me re-emphasize huge idea for the Marvel U, and the entire room got stoked. It’s still at the bare-bones stage, but we found a great theme and structure by which to start hanging stories on. This will all most certainly change, gather momentum and get fleshed out once we have our next summit, which is our big Marvel U get together in which everyone is in the pool. This is really where the magic starts to happen, as more and more people start giving their input and look at the structure that we bring to the table with fresh eyes. It ends up being an incredibly exhausting creative endeavor but really priceless in the sense you have so many brilliantly creative brains locking in and doing the Borg hive-mind thing.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.