The issue of creator’s rights has been a sacred subject for years. Since the Siegel and Shuster fight in the 70’s, it has been a real issue for fans and creators alike. Without getting specific about any one fight, it is clear that the issue is a tough one, and the farther away we get from the early battles, the more divisive it is.
Which is why I find it odd or maybe hypocritical that it does not get brought up much when it is creator vs. creator rather than creator vs. “Evil Corporation”.
There has been a lot of jerk-like behavior lately on the creative front. Disputes of every kind have been cropping up. Most like the above creator vs. “Evil Corporation” is Gary Friedrich vs. Marvel over the credit and money etc, involved in Ghost Rider. Marvel has won both the original suit against then and their countersuit and now Friedrich is on the hook for $17,000 for money he made selling Ghost Rider prints. Legally, Marvel is 100% in the right. Based on what I have seen of this, it was the textbook definition of work for hire, and Marvel has every right to protect profits by preventing Friedrich from selling their prints. (If they were original sketches by him or someone that gave him explicit permission to sell their work, this would be different). But Marvel is just making an example of him, and being dicks in the process. Friedrich can now no longer claim to be the creator of Ghost Rider for any kind of personal gain. They didn’t even do that to Kirby! With a movie coming out with the character, Marvel needs to back off if they want to save face, however since it is Disney, now really and truly protecting their house; they are likely to grind Friedrich into powder because they legally can. They have ever legal right to do so. But this is just piling on.
Then there is Static Shock from the New 52. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this book has not been great, so much of what has been said publicly may be pointing the blame for a failing and now cancelled book. John Rozum was the writer that decided to leave, citing the old chestnut “creative differences”. He claims he was being pushed aside for Scott McDaniel and the editor to have greater story input. They in their turn have said that they were just trying to make the best book possible, and they thought everyone involved was on board. I think the only real jerk here is DC editorial for bringing on a very talented writer, known for odd, introspective and intelligent work to write something completely out of his wheel house. Not that he couldn’t have done it, just that they didn’t want that. If what you want is a book with all the hallmarks of “X”, you hire “X” or the nearest available equivalent. You don’t get Shane Black or Paul Verhoven to write a screenplay adapting Pride & Prejudice, so why expect Rozum to write this book when he clearly had a different direction in mind?
Next up is Robert Kirkman. He has gotten his fair share of bad press lately and is rapidly on his way to becoming the Dave Sim of the 2010’s. First he had a very public break with Rob Liefeld over The Infinite. With very little actually done on the series they have cancelled it because they cannot agree on what sounds like some pretty simple stuff. Again, I think that one party (Kirkman in this case) just did not adequately express what he was really looking for. If you bring a guy like Liefeld onto a book, you are going to get some pretty specific things. Like him or hate him, Rob’s stuff is very distinctive and has a very specific style that cannot be confused with anyone else’s. Sounds to me like someone who is a little too full of his own success and thinks that he is infallible. Because he and Rob were more or less equal partners in the book, it is easier to kill the book than buy out one partner.
In what sounds more like 2 people that really need a time out, Tony Moore is suing Kirkman over payments he says he is owed for The Walking Dead. I’m sure there IS money there, but at issue are the terms of the contract that was signed between the two of them. Sounds like Kirkman feels he more or less bought Moore out and owes him no further money. Moore for his part states that the deal was pushed on him and misrepresented. To be blunt, much of what I have seen and heard from Kirkman himself in video posts, about his view of things in general, leads me to believe that he is being the jerk here. This is strictly my impression on this, and is just my opinion.
Many people look at the original Image revolt of Lee, Larsen, McFarland etc, was about creator’s rights. I’m sorry, but that really is oversimplifying it. They wanted THEIR rights. As they felt they were being denied. Were they correct? Probably. Were they interested in improving things for ALL creators? As a secondary objective, yes. Did other creators benefit from their actions? Eventually, yes. Who gained the greatest benefit? They did. But ascribing this noble goal and lofty visions of equality is not correct. In much the same way that Kirkman, Moore and even Alex De Campi and Jimmy Broxton/James Hodgkins (if you have not heard about the Kickstarter hassle on this one—look into it. It is fascinating) all want their own rights protected, they will, at times damage other creators to get them. It is all a long way from Neal Adams fighting for Jerry and Joe with DC over Superman. Was Neal 100% right and pure in his motives? I cannot say. Surely he knew if he won, things would be better down the road for him and others, but I really don’t think that was the main motive. There was a wrong, and he wanted his voice heard.
All creators have rights. The trick is to know when those rights begin to trample on the same rights of others. Let’s all keep that in mind before we run screaming into the hills in outrage. Neal Adams is a legend in the industry. And all legends, like everyone else I have mentioned here, is human. They are not perfect, and sometimes they make questionable choices that are in their own interests only. Other times they make altruistic choices with no clear benefit to themselves. Putting on the blinder called creator’s rights, just does not allow you to get deep enough into the issue. Look closer. Look seriously and without undue passion. Sometimes these are legal issues only, and others they are moral issues of right and wrong. It is sad that the right and wrong are rarely decided fairly, and often we need to “think” solely with our emotions for the right side to win. Just remember that in creator vs. creator, there really ARE two sides.