Thursday, 26 April 2012

Creators are People as well


Just so you know the intended blog entry and drawing (the 2nd page of Milk and Cheese) for this week have been put to one side until next week – what I need to discuss I feel is more important at this moment

What I want to discuss this week are the issues of what are normally described as “creator’s rights”

But before you all start rolling your eyes – for clarification this is what I mean:-

The right for the creator to receive an on-going sum for his creation and to be treated by the company he did the creation for with a modicum of respect and dignity

 Which on the surface does not sound that unreasonable – Let’s look at the music industry as an example as the process should be similar to a comic book artist / writer in many respects

The recording artist makes recordings under contract to a music company

Now imagine that all that ever happened was the recording artist got paid for just making that recording

And never got paid any money for anything else

So for example they never got a % of any actual record sales, or T-shirts – books, calendar, posters, videos, movies (should any be made), replays of their material on radio etc.

And let’s take it a bit further and imagine their recording contract was just enough to make ends meet.

That unless they work very very hard or have alternate sources of income they are unlikely to be able to afford such things as healthcare or a proper pension, to send their children to university and so on

And why not put the cherry on top of the cake as well, on top of this the recording artist is completely unimportant, their name is seldom mentioned, if anyone records a song they do not mention the originating artists name or worse still are forbidden from doing so by the recording company, the originating artist also has no say or control about how their original material is used or abused and of course they don’t see a single cent from any of it either

That is more or less (obviously exaggerated a bit) the situation in the comics industry today in terms of work for hire for either Marvel or DC and possibly other publishers as well

Now I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this is wrong and it needs to change

But for the best of all possible reasons, as it’s actually in Marvel and Dc’s interests to do so

How so?

Simple – I don’t think anyone will deny that as a industry overall comics are in trouble, Dc acknowledge as much by going for their radical New 52 approach – although this was interesting its failing to tackle the actual problem

I have a strong and firm belief that the material and therefore the sales of it is only ever going to be as good as the treatment and conditions given to the people who make it, that Marvel and Dc not only have an ethical responsibility to treat creators differently, that actually if they did so the material itself would be become richer and more popular as a result

That cutting corners by treating creators the way they do is actually a false economy it is short sighted and it is fuelling the demise of the medium and as much as I hate to say it is just greedy

It narrows down the amount of people and the diversity in the comics creative field tremendously as anyone is better off in practically any other vocation - even more so if they have a family to support

To coin a phrase its like constantly abusing the goose that lays the golden eggs and then wondering why the eggs no longer arrive

For the record I don’t think much actually has to change – just some basic principles

But of course it is these principles that both Marvel and Dc seem to be all too happy to go to court to prevent a creator making any claim on

These principles are simple:-

That the creator should always get a % of any reuse of their creation regardless of how it used where and who by – I don’t think this has to be a large percentage by any means - it can be small 1% even– all it needs to be is large enough so a creator doesn’t have to keep working into their 80s with half their eyesight gone (yes I am referring to Gene Colon)

That the creator should always be credited, acknowledged positively and consulted with respect in regards to any reuse of their creation – at least to the level of basic human courtesy is all that is really required here – There is a rather obvious exmaple regarding a rather high selling Dc trade paperback which of course does not need to be named

Of course an alternate option is to make the page rate on offer higher so that the issue of constantly having to work to make ends meet is not such an issue and offer such things as healthcare and pensions etc. even to freelancers

(Note that creators usually have little choice about going freelance as they page rate is so low they normally need to work for several companies at once simultaneously)

But both Marvel and Dc make millions – it’s not unreasonable to say to them please share just a bit of that back to the people who actually made it possible, support and foster creativity as that way the creative act always comes with respect dignity and the security that you’re not toiling life away with little recompense and worse treatment

This should really be against human rights and it definitely sounds like a labour rights issue – both Marvel and Dc should be ashamed at themselves for treating anyone this way, regardless of what they do

But to treat a person who has made it possible for them to make so much money in the first place in such a way is completely unforgivable

This has to change if the medium is to survive

I doubt anything positive will happen as a result of this blog entry which is shameful

I doubt anything will change either - apparently Gordon Gecko must be right and greed must be "good"


And making money is more important than anything else

By all means feel free to tear me down or nit-pick with my statements – but I seriously do not know of many other vocations that treat their employees so badly

That alone is definitely something that does need to change for the sake of the future of the industry

It’s simple - fair pay and fair treatment – that’s the basic rights of any employee – right?

Wrong - perhaps we should call them Creators wrongs as there does not seem to be much that is right around...


Update
There is of course more a lot more about this elsewhere Just some recent examples :- http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/04/18/creator-rights-before-watchmen-avengers-moore-kirby/ 

Chris Robertson felt so strongly about these issues he decided to no longer work or either DC or Marvel

Bergen Street Comics shop have decided to NOT order “before watchmen” and there’s a group to boycott it altogether
 
There is also a groundswell of people boycotting the opening weekend of Marvels multi billon dollar making  Avengers movie over Marvels treatment of Jack Kirby whose family of course won’t see one single dime
 
What will you do?

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