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!

More on Platinum:
News and notes
Platinum’s lack of credit – UPDATE


  1. I agree that reading contracts can be hard work (that’s what smart friends are for!) but if you don’t ever have someone read them then you can’t really blame anyone else if you end up in a situation you weren’t prepared for.

    I don’t think “Work for Hire” is bad if it’s clear upfront you don’t own the material (like being paid to write a Spiderman or SpongeBob comic) and you are being properly compensated for your work (ideally with lots of $$$). Obviously a work for hire contract that asks you to create things for other people to own and further develop without you is always trickier. My biggest problem with that scenario is the terms encourage artists to do half-assed work. Why put your heart and soul into something you don’t own? (obviously money is the answer. But to me upfront money is very different than backend promises of money down the line). Many writers and artists get carried away and can’t help wanting to do their best even on low paying projects…creating something they are really proud of…and then realize that maybe the money isn’t worth the feeling of handing your children off to strangers. Unless those strangers have really good credentials and a track record with creators.

  2. Work for hire isn’t bad, bitching and moaning after the fact is. Listen, we should all learn from mistakes in the past, and also use work for hire to our advantages. If you are going to sell one of your creations, make sure it’s one you don’t care too much about (I remember reading that Evan Dorkin had no problem selling “Eltingville” to Cartoon Network, but would never sell Milk & Cheese to anyone).

    Just read the contracts people.


  3. I suppose the other side of the coin of it is though — is it better to let the properties sit and never have a chance to be published at all? I have like 30 different proposals filed away on my hard drive. I don’t know what the odds are that most or even some of them will find sweet creator-owned deals. I’m also a relatively new comic writer. I need to establish some credits, a portfolio. I don’t know if strategically picking out certain properties — or creating new ones to a certain company’s specs — for work for hire is necessarily a bad thing. But it is good to be informed, to know what you are getting yourself into, and what the risks are. And that is why I think your article is helpful. For me, work-for-hire on self-created properties is an option. But I also probably wouldn’t take that one big “story of my life” idea, the one I’ve been writing and lovingly nursing since I was 12, and sell the rights off to it, either.

  4. No, by all means, keep signing Work For Hire agreements! It’ll give an entirely new generation of creators a reason to keep singing those “Somebody Done Me Wrong” sob stories.

  5. is it better to let the properties sit and never have a chance to be published at all?


    As a general principle, sign a work-for-hire when you are working on someone ELSE’s intellectual property. Keep your own stuff to yourself. See “selling your baby to gypsies” above.

    If you are trying to get noticed, then publish to the web instead. That is easy, and if you don’t have what it takes to get that done, then you just don’t want it badly enough.

  6. While it certainly does suck to be in that situation, you really can’t throw in the towel after one character. Yeah, its your book, but you can write others. If you can’t, well like she said, you weren’t going to last anyway. You can never rest on your laurels.

  7. I know contracts can be difficult to read but make sure you know what you’re getting into. There’s no reason why you should skip this part. It’s important and tells you what the agreement is.

    Also, if the contract isn’t to your liking, then negotiate. Tell the publisher/client what your issues or concerns are. Sometimes they do listen. And in the end if it’s not a deal that you are satisfied with then don’t do it.

  8. I’m glad this has at least given everybody an opportunity to again warn young artists of the potential dangers of work for hire contracts, but I think it was a really, really bad idea for Strang to post that. Pitching a huge fit about how you didn’t read a contract and then got taken advantage of under the terms of the contract you signed is really unprofessional, and I can’t imagine that this post isn’t going to hurt him should he go seeking work with a publisher again.

    “Oh,” the editor will say, “you’re that guy who pitches huge fits when his mistakes come back to bite him. Oh suuuure, you sound like a LOVELY guy to work with!”

    Like my momma told me since I was a little kid: Don’t sign ANYTHING, EVER until you understand EVERY SINGLE WORD OF IT. I mean, jeez, I renogotiated my contract with First Second, because I thought a few paragraphs seemed too vaguely worded. Read it read it read it.

    Read it.

  9. Ok, I just want to say, I don’t run around defending them. These things happen on sites that I’ve visited every day for years and years. I don’t think it was a coincidence Mike Strang decided to register and post on Comixpedia which is one of my known stomping grounds. And hey, I read here everyday too for years, so when I company I work for and people i know are attacked, it kind of pisses me off just a little. Yeah, I KNOW, I need to stop that, and I’m trying HARD, believe me.

    Here’s what I don’t get, and I refuse to believe it’s ignorance on the part of creators, because I like to give creators more credit than that. But when you do sign a work for hire thing, and the company has lived up to every obligation it had in its contract to you, how are they then screwing you over or crushing your dreams? I mean I could have done the same thing with “Hero by Night”, just signed on with my idea and did the work and expected them to figure it out and just wait for it to be done after I did my part, (writing and inked art , lettering) —

    I think my final public thought on Platinum, unless someone asks me, is that I feel I did get really lucky with Comic Book Challenge, and that Challenge and working with Drunk Duck has totally changed the company’s direction it seems to me from people I’ve talked to on all levels there. That does really suck for a number of creators who are waiting for projects to see the light of day, and I’m sure (as I’ve been told) that a number of them see me come along and POOF, I’m instantly published with a book. Now that I think about that on a personal level, because I wasn’t aware of a lot of those deals, I do feel crappy about that– but on a professional level Platinum did not one thing wrong there.

    I’m going to do my best in whoever I work with to make future dealings or creative teams go differently than what has gone on. So far so good.

  10. If Strand feels so awful about the situation he should (literally) put his money where his mouth is and offer to buy the publishing rights from Platinum outright. All Platinum really cares about is having product out there that they can then turn around and sell to Hollywood. They were literally paying stores to stock “Cowboys & Aliens” and selling it or giving it away at a no doubt rather substantial loss.

    So I’m currently in talks to buy back the publishing rights to my book “Love Bytes.” Platinum can keep the ancillary media rights, but I would assume the risks and the potential profits from any publishing ventures with the property. It’s really not the best of all possible worlds for me, but I believe in the story and I want to see it out there. And I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

    If Strand really, really cares about his property he’ll attempt to do the same.

  11. Note to Mr. Coffman: I don’t think Heidi’s headline means what I think you think it means. There’s a colon after the word “BREAKING,” as in “BREAKING NEWS: SUN RISES IN EAST.”

  12. There’s nothing wrong with “work for hire” under the right circumstances.

    There is a difference between being hired to create something new for a company, and a company wanting to buy something you already created.

    If you already created it, you own it. It’s your baby. Do with it as you will. If you want to make Sophie’s Choice, then go ahead and sign away your rights.

    If however someone says “we like your stuff, we want you to create something for us” then they are hiring you to create something new for them. You would not own that new creation. It was never “your baby”, you’re just the surrugate mother.

    No one should have any problem with being hired to create something new for someone, so long as you know what you’re getting into (meaning is it worth the fun, fame, or fortune?) But don’t be lured into a “I’ve had this great idea for twenty years and now it’ll be published if I sign over all ownership” situation. If the idea really is that good, a publisher will take a chance on it without buying it lock, stock and barrel.

    Keep the ideas you created for yourself. But there’s no need to be afraid to sell ideas you’re creating specifically for someone else.

  13. One thing Strang mentioned was he didn’t have the money to hire a lawyer to go through that very thick contract.

    I think that situation is quite common in these types of stories. Big Thick Contract. Lawyers charging $$ by the hour to go through it. Your minimum wage job can’t afford it. That’s if they are even employed.

    I think Heidi is right, publishers shouldn’t ask people to create new work, then offer them work for hire contracts that give them the ability to replace creators on those works. When dealing with creators, eventually a disagreement is going to happen that won’t be able to be worked out. It really doesn’t matter who is “right” or “wrong.” Under this set up, the publisher has nobody but themselves to blame for the negative PR that comes from disgruntled ex-freelancers.

  14. The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts provides pro bono and low cost legal services to impoverished creators. You can find them at:

    Moreover, many creators are happy to help out newbies and if you just ask around, they can give you an overview of the content of your legal document for free.

    There’s plenty of low cost legal advice available, if you are willing to spend 30 minutes on the internet searching for it.

    However, what many creators really need is a decent literary agent. A lawyer can tell you whether or not the document you are about to sign is enforceable. They can’t always tell you whether or not that document is in your best interests.

  15. Mr. Strang needs to find himself an attorney right quick.

    If he created the book and took it to Platinum, it CAN’T be work-for-hire. Under the Copyright Act of 1976, work-for-hire requires that the employer specifically commissions the project. Work created on the artist’s own initiative is never work-for-hire. The contract may be invalidated if Strang makes the effort to pursue it.

    Both parties in this case are invited to come by the UNSCREWED! website at to discuss the case and possibly reach some sort of agreement.

  16. If you’re not making enough money on a deal to invest in a lawyer to look over the deal, it’s probably not that good of a deal.

  17. Holy crow. I just read through Strang’s blog and saw the exchanges with DJ Coffman.

    Intentional or not, that’s some first rate shilling.

    It’s totally possible to work for a company and still not tout the party line at every opportunity.

  18. There are times when it is a legitimate business decision to create under a work-for-hire agreement. A good contract where the pay reflects the fact that the publisher ends up with work of value can be good for the creator; it can be sure money now rather than taking a risk on getting a larger amount of money eventually, should you be able to find a home for your project and should it prove successful. (I’m saying this with my freelancer hat on – as a publisher, I’ve done very little in the way of work-made-for-hire deals, none featuring original creations.)

    However, thee are a lot of disappointing deals out there.

  19. On Plain Talk No. 1 – I’m OK with selling a baby here or there, so long as the value I get for the baby is fair. First, I never sell the cute ones. Second, the value needs to include three major items: Money, a legal lock-in forcing the company to print the comic within a certain amount of time, and a reversion of rights back to the creator if the first or second items aren’t met. Platinum currently, on most of their contracts, only offers a scratch at the first item.

    On Plain Talk No. 3 – We must always remember that Platinum had to re-do their contract for the first Small Press Idol, thus getting DJ the second item of desire, the legal forcing of them to print the comic. Platinum has to produce his comic, there’s no ifs, ands or buts there. So yes, they’ve been good to him. But to the other creators that lined up the seven years before him? Yeah, that’s a red flag.

    When large publishing or production companies try to expand their powers unchecked, that’s when bad things happen. I will give Platinum a shred of probable deniability from their first Small Press Idol fiasco, where they originally were taking ownership of any idea submitted through the contest. That could have been a mix-up in the legalese, but enough people raised questions about it that the Studio was forced to fix things and make them painstakingly clear.

    Meanwhile, if I remember the legal wording of the contracts signed correctly, Platinum was bound to offer contracts to the top 3 winners of the Idol, with only the winner’s getting a mandatory printing. Did the two runner-ups get their contracts? And if so, am I missing more of the solicitations from the company? Because right now, the only print I’ve seen is the legally forced book and the one with the company president’s name on it.

  20. I know I was happy as a clam to work for Platinum back in the day. I learned a whole lot about the businesss under the tutelage of Lee Nordling, one of the menschiest guys in the biz.

    And everything I worked on was something that Platinum already owned. It was work-for-hire and I knew that going in. I just fell in love with the project, and when it got lost in the editorial shuffle I decided that I would move heaven and earth to get it out there. It’s not like Platinum was trying to screw me or anyone else over. Things just didn’t work out. That happens.

    The guys at Platinum are really quite reasonable, and they spend a lot of time and money developing people who no one else would touch — like me four years ago. I felt lucky to work with them then, and I feel the same way now. It’s not all peaches ‘n cream over there, but then it’s not really that way anywhere. Platinum is what it is, and they’ve never pretended otherwise.

    And no matter what kind of treatment Strand did or didn’t get from Platinum, his “take my ball and go home” attitude only makes things worse.

    Everyone gets screwed on their first contract. It’s one of the ironclad rules of the entertainment industry. The goal is to just get out there and prove you have what it takes and with every subsequent contract you gain more and more leverage until you’re the one dictating terms to The Man rather than the other way around.

  21. Platinum has printed other books now besides mine. But the Comic Challenge contract did say a certain time they wanted to have a book out by, afterall what good would having another contest be if they couldn’t show results of the first one, that’s my guess.

    Here’s a small thought about the “selling your car” or selling your baby or rights away. It’s different because as I understand it, if I sell “my car” — it’s not like that at all. Say they took your old car to a car show and won prizes with it, you wouldn’t get a cut. But under Platinum’s standard contracts, you’d get a cut of that, and or if they sold the car again to someone else all along the way. I’m sure different contracts are different, but they’re not outright taking your idea and not keeping you included.

    On the other hand, I think its the same for Marvel and DC, they might give some royalties now? But for years they didnt. When you worked for them, you didnt get anything but the paycheck, and they didnt cut you in on things you created while working there. At least Platinum has been doing that over the years i’ve heard. I dont see how thats bad at all, and it was a draw for me for sure.

  22. I share Strang’s pain. Believe me, this is the reason why I self-publish nowadays (when I can afford to). Heidi, I should e-mail you one day of all the discrepancies I faced with a certain self proclaimed inker/publisher with the initials SG and the hell he and his company Death Comics put me through in trying to get my first issue of Deposit Man out.



  23. As writer of comics who cannot draw, I know how hard it as to get noticed. I thought about Platinum when they started, and knew enough not to sell my Great Idea to them.
    As creator, it is your responsibility to learn everything you can about any business you plan to work in. Your choice is either the easy way (research by reading and listening from those who have done similar things) or the hard way (first hand experience and learning from your mistakes).
    So… go to the Library of Congress website and read their circulars about copyright. Go to your library or bookstore and read all you can about the art business (and maybe the music business, too). Then, since you are self-employed, read some books about business plans, visit the IRS website to learn about paying taxes correctly, and find an accountant who can help with the quarterly paperwork.
    Finally, study the history of comics. Everyone should know the story of Siegel and Schuster, and how they lost control of Superman, but not Superboy.

  24. DJ Coffman said:
    “Ok, I just want to say, I don’t run around defending them.”
    It seems you do. You just can’t stop defending them. Even when you said to Strang that you would only discuss any further in email, you returned to comment gain. And you continue to comment here. Let me ask you a direct question:

    Does Platinum have you on salary as a part of editorial?
    If I were a creator, I would never work for a company that is constantly under public scrutiny. Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire.

  25. On “shilling”… There’s nothing wrong with defending someone you feel has been unjustly characterized, and setting the record straight. It’s actually commendable, especially when you risk your own reputation by being accused of being put up to it, but you do it anyway because you know it’s right.

  26. Heidi, you rock!

    Thanks for the thoughtful outline I no doubt will save as a nice resource. I am so sad to hear this happen time and again and really the comic community owes itself to better protect their artistic voyage and rep. With POD readily available, there’s little reason for suspect publisher’s to get away with this kind of crap in the numbers they have. Have at thee.

  27. It seems like the collective comics blogosphere is kicking this guy Strang while he’s down I think it’s because even though he himself admits he was a naive rube, it’s still a bit jaw-dropping to see people signing away their creations without knowing what that means.

    If you want to sign away your creation knowing the ramifications, that’s your biz. But, you know, I first read about what happened to Siegel and Shuster when I was, like, 11 years old (I’m 35 now). Then there was the fight over Kirby getting his artwork returned, Alan Moore disowning Watchmen over his deal with DC, Marv Wolfman’s unsuccessful lawsuit over Blade, and so on and so on. It’s hard to believe that anyone who’s serious about comics doesn’t have a rudimentary understanding of this stuff, even if all they’ve read was The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay! Even if you’re not a lawyer, this history should make you aware enough to know what to look out for. It’s NOT an iron-clad rule that you get shafted in your first contract! It does happen a lot because young artists’ enthusiasm and inexperience often outweighs their business sense, but there’s nothing that makes getting screwed (or LETTING yourself GET screwed) inevitable.

  28. You can’t help but get attached if you put any love or effort into it.

    Telling a creator not to get attached to a project because of what the contract says is like promoting abstinence to teenagers.

    Sometimes art is made with your heart not your head.

    But you should still read contracts and wear condoms!

  29. You don’t need a lawyer to understand the Platinum contract. It’s written in plain enough english. He just didn’t bother to read the thing. The part about being replaced as the writer of your own creation was clear as day -shocking but clear.

  30. Raff, unless you have inside knowledge of Strang’s contract…

    Contracts can be changed from one creator to another. Maybe Platinum simplified their contract since then, maybe not. No accusation here, just comment.

  31. It sounds like all Strang was trying to do was vent his frustration with being bent over by a large corporation. His blog is a long story/cautionary tale for new and upcoming artists/writer/creators, it sounded like he was just trying to get the word out there that people can get screwed. I mean the poor guy signed a contract, in which he was under the assumption that he would oversee his creation till the day it was published. It’s over and done with. He vented about his anger and now hes going in another direction. Don’t pick on him for wanting to let his anger out on blogging website. I’m sure many of you have had your dreams crushed at one point, and did you not have to retreat to your corner to build your spirits back up? This probably isn’t the last we will see of him. And look at some publicity he has now! Just try to look on the bright side… and maybe get a plug in or two. Maybe this blog will be stumbled upon by another novice creator and it will save them some headache.


  32. Look, if you want to work in the “comics business”, then you have to accept both words as being equal. If you want to do “comics”, then hey–knock yourself out. Write ’em in your spare time, draw ’em in your basement, and show ’em to your friends.

    But if you want to work in the comics “business”, then you’ve got to know the business, and not complain about it when you don’t. This guy acts like he didn’t know what a work-for-hire contract was, thinks that Platinum Studios is the only one who uses them, didn’t read his own contract that he signed and then complains that he didn’t get the deal he wanted. (Of course, he had no complaints when he took their money.)

    Would you expect that Platinum would had over money to you without reading your pitch or seeing your artwork? Then why would you hand over your creation to them without reading their contract?

  33. What I want to know is, does Platinum still have the rocks to go on with the book without strand? It sounds like an invitation for worse press.

  34. In this instance, it doesn’t sound like Mr. Stang’s situation falls completely under the work-for-hire definition…or at the very least, there’s some wiggle room.

    I suggest he go ahead and register his creations and characters with the copyright office. Couldn’t hurt and might help.

    An FYI

    For you published or aspiring novelists out there who are doing or considering writing media tie-ins…

    Work-for-hire does NOT cover novels. They are outside the criteria.