A couple of incidents this week of creators who spoke out, and editors who took offense at the speaking out.

First off, we’ve noted many times that Jim Starlin and Marvel seemed to have reached a happy place in terms of Starlin created characters Gamora and Thanos getting the big screen treatment in Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Starlin, whose various cosmic works such as The Infinity Gauntlet have been hugely influential in that end of the Marvel Universe, created a new Thanos graphic novel for Marvel and all seemed to be well. But then….things weren’t. Newsarama has a full rundown of the matter but The Beat first noticed something might be up when Starlin posted this on his FB page:

The kerfuffle stems from what Starlin described as “someone at Marvel anonymously put a corporation-wide-no-use restriction on the character, effectively putting the brakes on the ongoing plans I had for him and [Thanos].”

Marvel’s Tom Brevoort addressed this on his Tumblr:

No, there’s no truth to this. Thanos will be appearing as much as ever in our books.

This is all really about something else, something much smaller that Jim probably shouldn’t even have taken public on his Facebook page. But he did, so there you go.

Starlin elaborated to Newsarama, saying

According to Starlin, he finished penciling his four-issue arc of Savage Hulk last week but found the Adam Warlock situation had remained unchanged.
“The hold is still in place and, apparently, shows no signs of being lifted any time in the future,” Starlin told Newsarama Tuesday. “So I’m moving on.”

Starlin’s own Dreadstar was just optioned for a movie so he has plenty more to keep him busy. It is a little sad—while Marvel can’t give comics creators a starring role in movie promotion the way, say, Robert Kirkman and Mike Mignola do, they did give Ed Brubaker a cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was nice since Brubaker created the whole Winter Soldier character. It would be nice to see these relationships evolve, but in the social media era, things get played out much faster.

Case two involved writer Joe Keatinge who tumblrd on the occasion of the release of a story he write in CYAN, the new Vertigo anthology, that the story’s ending had been changed and he was disowning the story.

The quick gist is I was asked to contribute a story. I brought in Ken as INTERGALACTIC’s going to be a while and this would be a fun, quick way to get something by us out there. Vertigo via Editor Mark Doyle was very accommodating in allowing us to collaborate. Seemed like a good deal.

The story Ken and I conceived together, which I scripted, ended up coming back in a proof PDF where — despite Ken’s art looking even better than ever — our story and my dialog were drastically altered, specifically our ending. We were told by editorial that it was locked in and set for publication without further explanation as to what happened or why. 

I need to be clear — Ken did an astonishing job with the art and the whole book is worth the price of admission for what he did alone. It’s absolutely beautiful and it’s truly an honor to work with him. 

And the truth is maybe no one would ever notice. Maybe people will like the end result much more than what we wanted to do. Maybe it was the right call, but since it was contracted and solicited as an original work by the two of us I feel uncomfortable taking credit for it, despite how proud I am of everything Ken did and how great working with him is. 

This quickly went Twitter, with Vertigo editor Will Dennis stepping in:

You can read the whole exchange in the first link.

I think what struck me about both of these is Brevoort and Dennis mourning the public airing of, if not dirty, then laundry that maybe had been sitting in the hamper for a while. Obviously with all the platforms available to everyone now, it’s a wonder we don’t see MORE complaining. Of course, it’s doubtful that Keatinge will work at Vertigo again, and Starlin’s future work at Marvel (where he’s been working for 43 years!) seems to be on hold. Speaking out is still risky business. I’m not picking any sides here—Brevoort and Dennis are esteemed editors, but you can’t make every one happy, and fans (and bloggers) are eager to jump on any hint of behind the scenes turmoil. Brevoort addressed this in a later post, when a fan asked about “You , Axel and even now Joe seem to talk a lot of shit about the Sept Solicitations from DC but look at what you guys are doing to Jim Starlin and what you did with Greg Rucka , Matt Fractions Inhuman and George Martin and I can go on how you consort in the same type of actions.”:

Wait, what?

JIm Starlin came back and did an OGN, and then an Annual, and then an arc on a book that’s launching. While he’s frustrated because there’s something he wants to do that he can’t do at the moment, on a series that was never approved, that’s hardly a list of infractions.

Greg Rucka is so upset about his awful treatment that he’s writing CYCLOPS at the moment. Matt’s so upset hat he keeps coming to the Marvel summits to share his ideas freely and contribute to the process.

And George RR Martin? We haven’t even talked to the man!

So I have to say, this sort of thinking is beyond bogus. It’s ridiculous. It’s a by-product of the manner in which you fans sometimes confuse the creators and editors with the characters, and want eveybody’s trading card to either clearly say “super hero” or “super villain” on it.

it is always easier to side with the creator whose work you love, especially when you don’t really have but the slightest inking about what is actually going on—and, in fact, there is likely not 1/10th of the drama to the situation as you’re imagining. We don’t have fight scenes in our offices.

We work in a creative industry. In such an environment, not everybody can get everything that they want. Nor is anybody entitled to it. That applies to everybody on both sides of the desk, from Stan lee down to the newbie walking in the door for the first time.

While that seems like a fair assessment on Brevoort’s part, it’s also fair to say that publishers held a lot more cards than creators for a long time. If every editorial squabble got played out in social media, believe me, you’d get tired of it very quickly. However, it’s a healthier atmosphere for everyone when creators AND publishers have more options. Everyone is held to a higher standard when there are more places to play the game.


  1. Starlin basically gave Thanos to Marvel. He provided for them their go-to big cosmic threat that’s served the comics for decades and is set to be the heavy in (likely) Avengers 3 which will rake in billions.

    And the character premiered in the early 70s so I doubt Starlin gets much if any royalties. You’d think the least Marvel could do after all that was let the man use Adam Warlock in a comic book story.

  2. Freelancers that publicly complain about a client stand a chance of losing that client.

    Thankfully, there are more options to get your work in front of readers than ever if you’re a creator.

  3. “which was nice since Brubaker created the whole Winter Soldier character”

    Bucky Barnes? No, I’m pretty sure that was Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Brubaker at most created his arm, not the whole character.

    Also, “Dreadstar”, not “Deathstar”.

  4. Am I confused, isn’t Bucky Barnes the Winter Soldier? I stopped reading the Brubaker comics early on, and haven’t seen the movie, so maybe I missed something.

  5. Bucky Barnes is the Winter Soldier. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon did not create the Winter Soldier however. Ed Brubaker did.

    Just like while Marv Wolfman did not create the character of Dick Grayson, he and George Perez are solely credited with creating Nightwing.

  6. “…[Starlin’s] frustrated because there’s something he wants to do that he can’t do at the moment, ON A SERIES THAT WAS NEVER APPROVED…”

    If this is accurate then… wow.

  7. Yeah, I always thought that Nightwing credit was a little ridiculous. I was actually wondering the other day if, when the title is relaunched as GRAYSON, if Wolfman and Perez will keep the creator credit. They created the “Nightwing” name (actually borrowed from an old Superman identity), and the original Nightwing costume (which is pretty much completely different now), but if there was any creator participation and credit to Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson in the Dick Grayson character, they’d deserve it as much whether the character is called Robin or Grayson or Nightwing or whatever. This is a side issue to the bigger injustice that there’s no creator participation and credit to Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson.

    I still think saying Brubaker created the “whole Winter Soldier character” is weird. He created the name, I guess. Presumably someone else (Epting?) created the costume. But the “whole character” surely includes Bucky Barnes.

    If there’s a story where Bucky shows up at SHIELD HQ in civilian clothing to pick up his robot arm which is being repaired, is addressed only as Bucky by Dum Dum Dugan, and then foils a Hydra invasion without changing into costume and using only his Kirby&Simon created arm and legs, is there anything in the story created by Brubaker?

  8. It’s worth noting that Brevoort wasn’t responding to what Starlin said, but to a fan’s telephone-style misconception of what Starlin said. The fan thought NOBODY was allowed to use Thanos, instead of some sort of freeze on Warlock (possibly because there are plans in the offing) making Starlin’s Warlock/Thanos story unworkable.. (This misconception was largely due to another site on the Internet deliberately misconstruing what Starlin said so they could run an inflammatory headline.)

  9. I wish cartoonists flipped out every time someone else made more money off of their creations than they did.

  10. It’s amazing how quickly these types of situations turn into Jr. High grade sniping instead of professional conversation. These people aren’t pretty enough to be on TMZ so I don’t know what they hope to accomplish behaving like this.

    I’m speaking of both the creators and the editors here. Keatinge’s is a little more justified in my opinion because he only wants to be credited for work he actually does and DC appeared to have altered their agreement. However, the key to that situation is to address it directly with the company and if they are unresponsive then don’t work with that company anymore…or if you have to work with that company then lower your expectations of their professionalism.

    If you’re an editor who is working with an unreasonable artist as the editors’ responses imply, then you ask the person to meet directly to clear up the situation and if they aren’t responsive then you don’t work with them anymore. The solution is not to go on the internet and say “oh, didn’t know you were a jerk, bro.”

    Regardless of what’s actually happening behind the scenes, the mature response for all involved isn’t to jump on the internet with a tell-all tweet.

    This is why we can’t have nice corporate comics!

  11. Starlin basically gave Thanos to… .. ..Brubaker at most created … ..They created the “Nightwing” name .. . ..they’d deserve it as much whether the character is called Robin or Grayson or… .. created the name, I guess. Presumably someone else (Epting?) created the… … .. .. .

    I jus’ hope none of you bastards forgot who created LIBBY IN THE LOST WORLD !

  12. To me its far more telling where the fan asked about Thanos and Adam Warlock, and Breevort only mentioned “Oh no Thanos isn’t going anywhere” completely sidestepping Adam Warlock at all.

    That to me says there is more truth going on then he’d like to admit. Because Breevort knows by now its really about Adam Warlock, not Thanos and has made it seem like Starlin is being ridiculous by only talking about Thanos. And then go “I’m only answering what the question was?” He’s well aware of what Starlin is saying, because I’m sure he checked to see what Starlin’s actual statements were.

  13. Re: Nightwing
    Easy one first. When a court of law legally distinguishes between Superman and Superboy as two entirely separate works, then for sure Nightwing and Robin (Dick Grayson) are clearly also separate works. Nightwing, legally — and creatively, for that matter — is simply a derivative work, copyrightable on its own merits to the original Dick Grayson character created by others.

    Re: Starlin
    Brevoort’s later clarification appears true: it’s about Warlock, where fandom apparently was trying to project it as Thanos. 1. I think Brevoort & Marvel could do a lot worse than a new Warlock story by Starlin. I mean jeez, guys. 2. Pretty sure Warlock’s dead right now. I think. His last version was the weird younger one who ceased existing, or died, or something, fighting the Badoon — or something, ha –in a far future reality, teaming up with Starhawk in the end of the previous GotG series, which had really funky art. Now, let’s be clear that death of Warlock is no big thing, he’s a guy known for coccooning himself and being reincarnated. But, actually it is. His deaths/resurrections have actually been used relatively sparingly which has been a good thing. The one place in all of comic-dom that does genuinely regard deaths is Marvel’s cosmic side of things. If the hold on Warlock actually is due to the fact that he’s currently dead as of his last continuity appearance, then kudos to Marvel for trying to plug one small hole in that leaky dyke.

    Silly but True

  14. On second thought, that would be too principled. I’m sure the simpler reason is this. Whatever he’s been in the past, Warlock’s now a “GotG” mythology character. Bendis is writing GotG. Bendis probably has plans for Warlock. Marvel gives Bendis what he wants.

  15. No matter who created the characters or who gets credit for them, they are owned by corporations who are not people and their only concern is about the bottom line. If you don’t have a contract and just an editors word, you cannot fully expect that word to be kept forever.

  16. @Horatio I do own Latischa. One of the benefits of knowing the owner and instigating a creator owned policy when taking over from my predecessor.

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