As comic characters continue to roll out of the pages of comic books and into other forms of media, especially television and film, we are discovering a greater interest in who created what. This piqued curiosity is surely the bi-product of heated battles that were fought on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as well as the recent settlement regarding the characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby for Marvel.
It is a sad fact of comic book history that creators have most often been taken advantage of by the publishing houses that retain the rights to characters that they created. Many had long careers but were only rewarded by meager, hard earned page rates. They saw no royalties or benefits and in the early years little, if any, credit for their work. Most never even saw the return of their original art. Too many have passed on or continue to live in obscurity, without healthcare and certainly no compensation from their creations which have spawned a multi-billion dollar industry.
To be fair, some progress has been made, and in recent years attentive creators and their families have been able to establish some undisclosed agreements that have satisfied both sides. These accounts, however, are few and far between.
The foremost concern for many creators is not money but rather an acknowledgment of their creative contribution in the form of credit on the screen. This has been demonstrated most recently by a Facebook post from the daughter of the late illustrator, Al Plastino, the co-creator of Supergirl a character that will soon be the focus of a new television series.
“Facebook friends, we need you help.
Please help us get Al the credit he is due and all the creators who have died recently and will not see their characters come to life on television or in the movies. They never received any pensions, or health insurance, nothing at all. How disappointing that DC has waited until these gentlemen have passed away to begin producing programs like Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legion of Super Heroes,.Not looking for royalties. Just an acknowledgement of all the work these men put into building the DC brand. All the guys who have drawn or created characters when they were at the height of their popularity. Many nights I saw my father working in his studio to meet deadlines from the editor. At one point, Dad was handling 5 different strips for DC and United Media. Go to the DC website or their facebook page and let the syndicate know. You can do so much more for Al than any lawyer could. You helped Al get the Superman/Kennedy art into the Kennedy library where it was supposed to have been for the last 50 years and for that I am eternally grateful.
MaryAnn Plastino Charles”
Why is a fleeting credit so important to creators or their families? Why should we care? Few of us even notice, or stick around for the credits to roll at the end of a film. Those of us that do, understand that the greatest reward to a creator is to be recognized for his or her contribution to our culture. A simple acknowledgement goes a long way.
Think of the closing scenes of the Wizard of Oz when Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion get their awards. A diploma, a testimonial and a medallion were all it took to make the respective characters each feel fulfilled. The tokens were material acknowledgement of who they were and what they accomplished. This is the value of credit to a comic creator especially one that has created a character that has become iconic. It is the fulfillment of their destiny as a comic book creator, to experience immortality vicariously through their creation.
But our society has become desensitized to these simple but important details. Too many of us want to cut to the chase and just consume. There is a sense of entitlement that is too quick to dismiss the value of the effort those involved in creating our entertainment. This is ironic because now, more than ever before, all that information is easily at our fingertips.
A quick Wikipedia search will tell you all you need to know about who created nearly any character with links to biographies of the respective creators.
The modern Flash, “starred Barry Allen as the Flash and the series assumed the numbering of the original Flash Comics with issue #105 (March 1959) written by John Broome and drawn by Carmine Infantino“
With all of this information so readily available why is it so difficult to ask that they be credited on the screen? Some could argue that so many creators have influenced the current stories being told that the effort becomes daunting. This, however, becomes more of a reason to signal out appropriate credits.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example, does a nice job of crediting Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. but what about characters like Deathlock created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, Quake created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Gabriele Dell’Otto or Mockingbird first written by Gerry Conway and pencilled by Barry Smith? This is just a short list of the many characters that have appeared or are expected to appear in this ongoing series that has proven pivotal to the development of the MCU.
It is important for the world to know that the genre of superheroes did not just come from the fertile minds of a few. The genre is the result of the exceptional talents of a huge number of individuals whose work has been woven into a fabric of an expansive and growing mythology that has become entrenched in our popular culture.
For those of us that care, it is our responsibility to ensure that these creators and their efforts are not forgotten. It is the fans, collectors, historians, teachers and practitioners of the medium who will ultimately maintain the database of information that preserves the integrity of the history of what these comic book creators have accomplished. Hopefully our enthusiasm will be infectious enough that others will take notice and a greater appreciation of those unsung heroes will flourish.
Share if you care.