Just when you think that the blood sucking big business tactics of the giants of the comics industry couldn’t be any worse, along comes Gerry Conway with a plea to fans for help. To his credit, he proves what a master writer he is as he politely undresses an atrocity and invites a call for action in the most innocuous way imaginable.
Gerry is a storyteller and so he neatly broke down the conflict as only a true storyteller could. He introduces DC as a great company and explains why. Once upon a time comic creators saw no royalties on their work. DC changed that in the 70’s by creating an “equity participation” opportunity that would allow creators to receive royalty compensation!
Yay! DC is a revolutionary hero! They are great!
BUT… (I love this part so much it must be quoted exactly.)
“like all companies, it’s a business, and its first priority is to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and maximize profits. So tracking which character was created by which writer and artist team thirty or forty years ago isn’t part of their business plan.”
Basically, the hero succumbs to the dark side.
They expect aging creators and their heirs to be responsible for tracking the use of their work in an ever changing global market involving forms of media that were undreamt of when these works were created. A task so great that they, as a huge corporation, possessing in-house legal council, extensive human resource and virtually unlimited funds, claim to be unable to manage. (Though they certainly are capable of tracking down an inconsequential trademark infringer using a bat in their logo on the other side of the planet and suing the guano out of them if necessary.)
Tracking these characters, abiding by their commitments, and compensating appropriately IS their business. They should be willing to execute these “equity participation” agreements proactively, themselves, to avoid negative press and potential suit by creators, but they are clever and create programs instead of contracts hoping that creators will fail to follow up. It’s like selling gift cards that you expect a good percentage of recipients won’t redeem.
Creators are once again the defenseless victims. Even if a creator can manage to be obscenely diligent, overcome the tremendous obstacles, discover a use of their work and file the necessary DC Comics Character Equity Request Form after the fact payments are NOT made retroactively!
A new hero is needed. Gerry reaches out to the fans in the guise of a request to be vigilant. Gerry asks for the fans to keep watch, spot the use of creator works and to promptly effect execution of the equity request forms in the name of the creators in question. It would take an army of dedicated and organized fans to do this in a coordinated and constructive manner. Gerry knows this. The fans know this. DC knows this.
This is a message in a bottle! Fans need to recognize this as a signal, as a cry for help towards an injustice. Comic creators don’t need the fans’ eyes and diligence. They need the fans’ voices. They need us to speak out for them and take a stand. They need a hero to save them just as Neal Adams took the plight of Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster to the court of public opinion and won a major concession for the two in the late seventies.
This is not just a fight about comic creators. This is a fight about big business taking advantage of the people that got them there. Big business making promises that they have no intention of keeping. Big business using their money and power to bully the little guy. This is just one example that has been clearly defined. It is a battle that needs to be won but it is just that: a battle not the war.
So, to all the ignorant, self-indulged haters that mocked Gerry Conway’s insanely diplomatic assertion, be ashamed to call yourself a fan of comic books. A true fan recognizes the value of heroes, and becomes one vicariously through each adventure these creators give us. A true comic fan knows what it takes to be a hero and recognizes someone in need.
Those that could identify with Gerry’s plight, take a stand for what is right, not just for comic books but for the lives we all live. Take a stand for what is fair and maybe we can all make a difference not just in the comics industry but in the world.
Making Comics Because We Want to,