Archive for the ‘Comic Book News’ Category

an observation for the Batman 1966 tv show about villains

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Since the recent passing of Adam West it feels right to compose, share and/or steal various observations on the television show that both made his fortune and his fame.

Michael Bailey writes about the 1966 Batman series:

One of the things that I like about this series as an adult is that when villains are introduced it is rarely for the first time for the characters. We just started the False Face episode and he’s already an established villain. It gives the universe a lived in feeling.

I also like that they don’t reveal who is playing False Face in the opening credits.

Batman 66 s01e17 guest villain cardThe episode in question is season 1 episode 17 “True or False Face”.

False Face was played by the late Malachi Throne.


Malachi Throne was credited at the end of the second episode of the story

.Batman 66 s01e18 guest villain end title card

Purportedly this was Throne’s idea.

False Face originated in the comics, first appearing in Batman #113, published in 1958.Batman 113 False Face splash page

Black Lightning crashes Superman’s Funeral

Friday, April 21st, 2017

SNL did this skit back when Superman died fighting Doomsday

I interviewed Black Lightning’s creator about 15 years ago and he said that he’d kiss Sinbad for the job he did on this one.

Superman’s Debut and Real-World Deaths

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

A joke on “Archer” made me aware of the death of Michael Findlay.  A sexploitation film director of the 1960s and 70s, he was slashed to death by a helicopter on top of a New York City skyscraper.  While boarding passengers and preparing to take off, with the blades spinning, the accident caused the helicopter to suddenly lurch.  Three people, including Findlay, were killed as the blades smashed to bits, another passenger died later, and a woman on the street below was killed by debris.

Then I noticed the year this happened: 1977.  The year before “Superman: The Movie” debuted, in which Superman’s first public appearance happens when Lois Lane boards a helicopter on a rooftop, which then spins out of control due to a fault and threatens the lives of people both in the copter and on the streets below.

Maybe this was an obvious connection at the time; I was only a kid, unaware of all but the biggest news events.  The writers of the Superman movie had to think up a first appearance for Superman that would be a real grabber.  The helicopter accident always struck me as a bit underwhelming, but to a public that had helicopter crashes on its collective mind, that might make more sense.

In the comic books, aside from the 1938 story where he first appears lifting a car full of gangsters after they kidnap Lois from a dance, there never really was a canonical “first appearance of Superman” that all the fans knew like gospel.  The reason was: Superboy, “The Adventures of Superman When He Was A Boy,” became part of the canon in the early 1940s.  This meant that Superman was first introduced to the world as Superboy.  A 1984 mini-series finally filled in the first appearance of Superman when, in the middle of fighting Lex Luthor, a college-aged Superboy decides it’s time he called himself Superman.  So…ta-da, I guess?

Come to think of it…I don’t even know if there’s a “world gets introduced to Superboy for the first time” story.  There either isn’t one…or there are 40 competing stories!  Either way, like I said before, there wasn’t a really legendary tale of Superman/boy’s first appearance that we all knew by heart.

In comic book canon, Superman’s first “reveal to the public” moment was in John Byrne’s “Man of Steel #1” that relaunched Superman and reinvented him for the post-Crisis era.  For the first time since 1943, there was no Superboy.  Superman makes his first appearance at age 25 when he rescues a damaged “space plane” with Lois Lane aboard.  That 1986 mini-series happened the year of the Challenger disaster.  Whereas the Findlay accident may have inspired Superman: The Movie’s helicopter scene, this story was already in the works when Challenger exploded and (reportedly) the story was hastily rewritten to use a gigantic space plane that in no way resembled the shuttle.  Though he isn’t in costume, everyone recognizes that this was Superman when he later shows up in the cape, so it is accepted as his debut appearance.

In 1993’s “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” which draws heavily from the Byrne-era continuity, Superman first appears in costume stopping a bomb on a new spaceship.  He swallows the bomb, then assists with the successful launch.

An air disaster is again part of the first appearance of Superman in The Animated Series (1996) episode The Last Son of Krypton (Part 3), though he first fights robo-suits stolen from LexCorp.  An errant missile fired from a LexCorp suit strikes a plane, causing Superman to save it.  (There’s just something about a flying man catching a weighty flying machine that comes across as iconic.)

20 years later, the movie “Superman Returns” would have Lois on a genuine space shuttle which Superman has to rescue as part of his first public re-appearance after a five year absence.  Very likely this was cribbing a bit from the John Byrne story.  I can’t complain since the entire sequence is one of the highlights of the film.

The finale of Smallville, which I did not see (gave up on that show after season 1), has Superman rescuing Air Force One in his costume for the first time.

Every single one of these stories has one thing in common: the sudden appearance of a super-powered brightly-costumed flying man who saves lives, lifts heavy objects, does a good deed, smiles at the public, and flies away leaving everyone in awe.

So, of course, the “Man of Steel” movie charts a new course by doing none of that.  Superman’s just a laundry-stealing nobody who wanders America destroying personal property in ways that cannot be explained.  Man of Steel’s defenders stress that Clark doesn’t know who he is and is still figuring out his way in life, which is why he hasn’t decided if he’s a guy who kills people or not.  (Yeah, except that he’s 33 years old!  Granted, they chose that age just to over-emphasize the Jesus angle, but it really does make it odd that he doesn’t have a career yet.  It’s not like he’s 19 and backpacking across Europe.  Oh, and the whole point of being raised by salt-of-the-Earth middle Americans is that you get raised with a moral code and a sense of responsibility, so that you aren’t a wandering bum…but I’ll save that argument for another time.  Still…a moral person doesn’t let his dad run into a tornado to save the family dog in his place and then let him die just to protect his own ass.)  Clark is only revealed to the world because Kryptonians who intend to kill everyone on Earth need a vital codex that he’s secreted somewhere, so they demand that he turn himself over to the military.  He’s just an alien in hiding who first appears standing in the desert wearing a weird costume to surrender himself to the military.  All the public knows is that some aliens went to Metropolis and began flattening millions of people on both ends of the Earth into mush.  (The filmmakers want it to be horrific, though they don’t show you a single dead or mangled body, so you could be forgiven for thinking it was all abandoned buildings and vehicles.)  Then one of the aliens started fighting the others, caused skyscrapers to be destroyed, and finally snapped the neck of the alien leader.

Side note: I never really thought about it before, but these new Kryptonians are keeping with the Zeitgeist of the times.  Instead of ostentatiously flying around showing off their powers, a la Superman II, they just send out low-quality video messages of blackened figures making demands of the public, and then later they begin destroying towers and firetrucks and killing massive amounts of people without warning as part of their campaign where everyone who isn’t part of their new order will be dead.  You know.  Like…well, the terrorists who’ve been fighting us for decades.  I won’t say what they are, but it rhymes with Babical Bizlam.

Anyway, this is a horrible way to introduce Superman.  Granted, he fights Zod. We don’t see him rescue anyone during the fight, or rescue trapped people afterward, or clean up debris (remember the months it took to search for survivors and then remains while carting away all the wreckage at Ground Zero, which was just a relative handful of tall buildings?), or fly someone to a hospital, or even simply smile that Superman smile one time!  He then destroys valuable military property that we all pay for out of our taxes just to be a jerk about it.

The entire premise of this new Superman vs. Batman movie is about how miserable the first movie was in establishing Superman’s persona, that it couldn’t even get across the idea that he is a good guy!  It’s a plot, sure, but how far do you have to go from the general concept of Superman?  Why, in the 20 languishing years of Superman’s development, does Superman get bounced back and forth amongst writers, producers and directors who hate that the product is about a big blue flying boy scout in a red cape and shorts who follows a moral code and lives his life for others?  Why can’t Superman be an inspiring fantasy, like Harry Potter or Star Wars, instead of an angsty, humorless, brooding loner in dark armor?  We’ve already got Batman for that!

Superman Returns was a disappointment due to Lois Lane being a 22-year-old single mom with a five year old kid in a distracting subplot that didn’t make either Lois or Superman come off particularly well, but that airplane scene knew what Superman was all about.  I got more of a giddy thrill from seeing Superman facing off against the minigun-wielding criminal at the bank than I got from the entire Man of Steel movie.

Superman is supposed to be iconic, not so dark that he can be mistaken for Darth Vader from afar, an experience I had when seeing a standee at the grocery store.  See, the red shorts are part of that icon, a point which DC and the filmmakers seem to loathe but Warner Brothers knows well enough since most of the general-public merchandise they produce still includes the bright costume with the yellow belt and red shorts.  The public LIKES the bright smiling guy!  We don’t want midnight-blue Underoos for our kids; why do they think we would hate the big blue boy scout if he was on the big screen?

Here’s hoping the new movie can show us a more inspiring Superman.  Although the frowny, humorless, dark-tinted looks of Wonder Woman and Aquaman don’t give me much confidence.

‘The Problem’ of DC wanting to be Marvel

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Ask Chris #172: ‘The Problem’.

This not only gives you a great recap of DC and Marvel history, it explains why DC is so dark and serious now.  And it’s on the money.

Review: “Parallel Man: Invasion America” #1

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Full disclosure right up front.  Christopher “Chris” Jones is a friend that I see at the Midwest Comic Book Association cons in Minnesota, and we’ve known each other for about a decade.  We talk on Facebook, but I’ve never had him over for dinner or helped him move, so that’s made clear our level of friendship.

Not…I mean…it’s not like I’d deny him dinner if he was in town.

Chris has been making a name for himself as the go-to guy at DC Comics for comic books based on animated series.  From various Batman animated-style books to “Young Justice,” Chris has expertly captured the varying animated styles.  Because he’s a cartoony-style artist, right?

Parallel Man - Main character in action

Parallel Man – Main character in action

In an America conquered by China, a mobile refinery dwarfs other vehicles.

In an America conquered by China, a mobile refinery dwarfs other vehicles.

Washington DC is attacked by futuristic weaponry.

Washington DC is attacked by futuristic weaponry.

Actually…no.  He’s got a lot of art muscles he hasn’t been able to show off with his Cartoon Network assignments, and the new sci-fi book “Parallel Man” allows him to showcase his l33t skillz.

“Parallel Man” tells the story of one alternate Earth (The Ascendancy) that has decided to invade other alternate Earths to loot their resources and enslave their populations, and one renegade, Agent Morgan, who has other plans.  This first issue involves a chase sequence on floating bikes that takes place across several alternate Earths.

The science fiction isn’t really anything new to comics, where alternate Earths go back to the days of Gardner Fox, but the specifics of the premise are intriguing.  The action is exciting without being too violent.  Reading this, I began to realize how warped my expectations have gotten from the last 10 years of reading the increasingly gruesome violence of the DC Universe.  In one scene, the Ascendency grabs two suspects and I was surprised to see that it didn’t include a bloody execution!  (I hope that isn’t a spoiler.)  That’s actually rather refreshing.  It hearkens back to the days when comics were beautiful and action packed without death and dismemberment left and right.

Even if the story doesn’t trip your trigger, it is worth it for the art alone.  Chris gets to invent whole new worlds every few pages.  After a decade of needing to stick on-model for every TV imitation comic he was doing, it must feel good to cut loose…and I think it shows on the page.

You can order Parallel Man: Invasion America in comics shops right now with Diamond code Aug141505. Parallel Man #1 hits shelves October 8, 2014.  It will also be on Comixology. 

Is Ares the Teen Idol in Question?

Saturday, August 9th, 2014
Lynda Carter

now why would they hire her to play Wonder Woman? I wonder…

I was skimming for tonight’s broadcast television schedule and I clicked the episode for tonight’s Wonder Woman on MeTV. I found the title and the summary of the episode to be remarkably incongruous.

Wonder Woman
WSYMDT2 – 47.2Sat, 8/09, 8:00 PM 1 hr
“My Teenage Idol Is Missing”
9/22/1978, Action, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Family, Adventure
The Amazons crush the war god, Ares, and Zeus charges them to hold him prisoner as warriors on a secret island; centuries later, an U.S. Air Force pilot is lured to crash land on the island and the commotion allows Ares to escape.

I would never expect the title for a show about the war god Ares to be “My Teenage Idol is missing” although I suppose that fits overall with that particular series.

Pinky and the Brain at Dragon Con

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Pinky and the Brain

Here is a convention panel with Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen. I love to hear my favorite cartoon characters cuss.

SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

from the author/artist/cartoonist Mark Engblom:

One of my favorite comic book concepts has always been Captain Marvel and the power of SHAZAM. A clever synthesis of modern and ancient mythology, the story of Captain Marvel began in Whiz Comics #2 (1940) as orphan Billy Batson was drawn to a mysterious underground chamber. He was met by SHAZAM, a wizard who could channel the power of ancient heroes…all of whom were inscribed as a handy acronym on a nearby wall. Speaking the wizard’s name, Billy was magically transformed into the superhero Captain Marvel, who also possessed the abilities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.

As cool as the concept will always be, that acronym of gods, heroes, and a Hebrew king continues to fascinate me. I love the child-like simplicity of its assumption that mythic figures would freely share their power with mortals…but my adult cynicism often kicks in and suggests another story behind the wizard’s consolidation of godly power. In other words, it’s…

SHAZAM: The Art of the Deal!



Why Alan Brennert Won’t Be Watching Fox’s “Gotham”

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Barbara Kean, from Detective Comics 500

Barbara Kean, from Detective Comics 500


Back in 1981, in a story called “To Kill a Legend” in DETECTIVE COMICS #500, artist Dick Giordano and I created a character named Barbara Kean, the fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.  (This was set on a parallel Earth where counterparts of the “real” Batman and his cast were twenty years younger.)  A Golden Age “Mrs. James Gordon” (no first or maiden name) had appeared in 1951, mother of a son named Tony, but my character, later picked up by talented writers like Frank Miller and Barbara Randall Kesel, was clearly the prototype (with the same first name) for the “Post-Crisis” first wife of Lt. James Gordon, and—as Barbara Kean Gordon—became a supporting player in Batman continuity, and even made two movie appearances in BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT.

And this fall on GOTHAM, Fox’s prequel to the Batman mythos, one of the supporting characters will be…Barbara Kean, fiancée of Lt. James Gordon.

Ironically enough, on the same day that DC’s online news site listed the results of a fan poll in which I was chosen one of “the 75 greatest Batman artists/writers,” an executive at DC Entertainment—let’s call him “Johnny DC”—dismissed my request for “equity” (a percentage of income received when a character you create is used in other media) in the character.  The justification?  Because I had given her the same name, profession, and appearance as her daughter (at the time, just a sly wink to the reader), she was “derivative” of her daughter Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon and equity “is not generally granted” in derivative characters like wives, husbands, daughters, sons, etc., of existing characters: “this is the criteria by which all equity requests are measured.”

I then pointed out to him that writer Mark Waid had been told by then-DC management that DC did, in fact, give equity in “derivative” characters, just a smaller percentage—and indeed Mark and artist/co-creator Mike Wieringo received equity in the “derivative” character of Bart Allen/Impulse (grandson of Barry Allen/Flash) and received payments when he was used on SMALLVILLE.  I suggested DC grant a similar reduced percentage on Barbara Kean, and I was willing to limit this to her appearances on GOTHAM and forget the movies.

How did Johnny DC respond to this?  Did he rebut my argument?  Nope.  When confronted with the, shall we say, lack of veracity of his statement, he simply stopped responding to my emails.

Classy, right?

Now, let me be clear:  I’ve since learned that the amount of money involved here can be as little as $45 an episode for a full equity character.  So clearly I’m not in this for the money, but the principle.  This is small change compared to the fact that the estate of Jack Kirby receives no share of the billions in dollars that Marvel/Disney makes from movies based on characters he co-created.  But I suspect DC counts on the fact that the money is low enough that hiring an attorney to pursue it would cost more than you’d ever receive in equity payments.  They also count on the fact that their freelancers depend on DC for work and thus will not publicly call them out.  (And sometimes these freelancers are the very ones for whom that little bit of extra money would mean a lot.)

But as a novelist I depend in no way on DC for my livelihood, and have no problem recounting the bad faith they have demonstrated to me.  But I take little satisfaction in it.  There was a time—under the management of Jenette Kahn, Paul Levitz, and Dick Giordano—when DC went to great lengths to credit and compensate creators. They felt it was money well spent, because it brought other creators to the company and everyone benefited.  I was actually proud to be associated with a comics company with a conscience.  I hope my experience with the “new” DC is not typical, and that they still have a conscience.  But I sure don’t see it from where I sit.

(If you’re a fan of my comics work, feel free to share.)


Ethan Van Sciver as Neal Adams?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Today I’m Neal Adams. Breaking through my habits and traditional way of thinking through a cover. Doing something new and going against my own grain. I’ve got to shake myself out of this funk.   — Ethan Van Sciver

oh, i thought you meant that you were going to create your own line of comics, put out a couple of issues of each, re-evaluate your company’s financial strategy, change your mind, begrudgingly accept freelance assignments from your former employers thereby banking on your legendary status, be treated like crap by those same former employers, then vow to never work for them again by trying (once again) to publish your own line of comics…thus, continuing your career cycle for the past 30 years…  — Dexter T. Odani

Batman versus The Terminator

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Terminator Batman by ChrisWeyer on deviantART

It is an animated fan film conceived by Tony Guerrero and animated by Mitchell Hammond. I like it.

Man of Steel Animated Series

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

What’s the one thing everyone is going to remember about Man of Steel in five years?*SNAP!*

Best Batman moments from JLU

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

I haven’t even watched this yet, because it’s almost 30 minutes long.  All I can say is…”Rich boy” better be in there!

The Batman got too much spite

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Mark Pellegrini, the guy who runs the TMNT Entity blog, wrote a comparison between the Batman cartoon immediately after the Dini/Timm Batman/Justice League animated cycle and its predecessor, arguing that objective overall superiority of the DC Animated Universe stuff aside and the 1990s series especially, The Batman and its five seasons got short shrift.

now that both the DCAU and The Batman are but memories distanced by years and a multitude of newer cartoons and straight-to-video animated films clogging our DVRs, I think it’d be a good idea to discard the bitterness of the Bat-Embargo and judge The Batman against its holy brethren of the 1990s, Batman: The Animated Series, a bit more objectively.

Okay, so even objectively, Batman: The Animated Series wipes the floor with The Batman; like Hell I’m here to argue that. Instead, I think the safer activity to pursue is determining what aspects of the Caped Crusader’s mythos The Batman actually succeeded over Batman: The Animated Series in adapting and improving upon.

It is disturbing how correct he is. There is much to rip on in the first season of The Batman, including but not limited to how many of the characters’ first appearances involve less profitable crime and more the destruction of the city as facet or totality of the evil act.  There is also at least two episodes early on where Gotham City’s fate hinged on unlikely city planning.  In the episode where Killer Croc intends to flood the city that fate literally hinged on a switch that would “flood” or “not flood” the city.  The initial Mr Freeze episode was predicated on the entire metropolitan area having central heating and air systems.

There was also the far more naked use of concepts designed for toys, the Batwave coming to mind immediately.

The article does not mention any of that and it is absolutely correct to do so.  The article exists to extoll virtues of the program, not pound endlessly on what was wrong, which we in the internet and on our couches have certainly done already, far too much yet completely fairly.

So the article touches upon what The Batman did correctly, especially where The New Batman Adventures failed in a comparative place.

That said, I like these paragraphs:

On one hand, it wants to be a gritty and intelligent look at the psychological aspects of Batman’s adventures with daring plots and grim consequences, but then it also wants to be a fun and lighter take on the character where he eats enchiladas, pilots a giant robot and has kung-fu battles with the Penguin. The Batman wanted to be both kinds of shows and while it did strike that necessary balance from time to time, mostly it was a whole lot of nonsense and Greg Weisman phoning it in while waiting for that Spectacular Spider-Man gig to come along.

Perhaps its greatest hurtle during its initial run, though, was just the fact that it was the successor to the DC Animated Universe and that meant it was going to have a lot of guys in their early twenties who were going to hate it simply for existing. The fact that it ran concurrently with the last season of Justice League Unlimited, resulting in the infamous “Bat-Embargo” surely didn’t help (the Bat-Embargo prevented Batman’s supporting characters and villains from appearing in JLU as The Batman had exclusivity rights to them).

In other words, The Batman performed certain bits better because The Animated Series failed.

Deadpool in-games character bios

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Mark Hamill on being the definitive Joker

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I am very pleased to have my theory affirmed that Batman: The Animated Series was modeled after the original Max Fleischer Superman cartoons.

Mark Hamill delivers a monologue as the Joker onstage at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, FL on August 24, 2012. (expand for links to full talk)

Links to the full transcript of his talk to be found at
First half:
Second half:

Jack Kirby interview from 1982

Monday, August 26th, 2013

This interview aired on Entertainment Tonight on October 28, 1982.

From my perspective the words are amazing, as are the pictures, but his Brooklyn accent, like all Brooklyn accents, sounds like a speech impediment. It is fantastic.

To be fair I have never heard Jack Kirby speak. I like the cut of his jib.

what I hate about super speedster fights

Monday, August 26th, 2013

They seem awfully arbitrary.

Would a fight between two super-speedsters be like two normal guys fighting? After all, to each other they’re not moving at super speed at all, but normal speed relative to one another. Should a punch for one have relativistic effects?

So if one is in the air and is no longer moving at super speed and can not affect his position the other is attacking at high speed, right? Can one attack the other with super speed when the other is stationary and still have it be super speed or is it still just normal speed?

Why do they run? When/if I fight another normal person I don’t run around while punching him in the face. I just punch a guy. How does running grant the Flash an advantage over Reverse Flash if they’re really just running at a slow speed relative to one another. Olympic athletes wouldn’t have a fist fight like this.

And that is just what makes no damn sense in a fight BETWEEN super speedsters. What about a fight between a super speedster and a guy without super powers?

some bits of Wolverine and how he came to be

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Wolverine's adamantium skeleton, presumably from the first live action movie. Taken from The Infinite Revolution

Today I went searching for the very first mention of Wolverine having an Adamantium skeleton, and not simply bionic claws, and it was a waste of time for a number of reasons, most notably that I could not find it.

I found the page from an archive of John Byrne’s Byrne Robotics Forum where the topic was literally “Wolverine’s Adamantium Skeleton & Claws” and that by itself is extremely fascinating as John Byrne talks about elements and aspects to the character that were his and the art and method of collaboration with Chris Claremont and the sheer amount of respect between the two regarding how their differences would work.  There is a good deal of summary and recollection from fans, including the stuff that is definitively marked as “retroactive continuity”, artistic differences.  I also enjoyed how one of the fans described how different artists and then media depicted how Wolverine’s claws were arranged and portrayed on his hands.

What I love is that everything I thought about Wolverine literally as a kid, every problem I had regarding the character in the nineties, was something that John Byrne agreed with.  I thought bone claws were stupid because there was not only no reason for them, but no natural analogue.  Hey look!  A professional writer/artist agrees with a 14 year old kid!

Stuff after the jump. (more…)

DC versus Marvel: Creator Compensation

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Mark Waid states that he is not angry about the nature or function of comic book corporations or that rules are followed coldly by those same corporations when he details a history of work-for-hire and DC Comics compensation.

From the beginnings of American comics in the mid-1930s right up until the early 1980s, comics artists and writers were what we call today “work-for-hire”–they were paid a per-page rate by publishers, nothing else, and had no ownership stake in or claim to their creations. There were exceptions: though Siegel and Shuster were unquestionably undercompensated for Superman, they at least shared heavily in the royalties of his lucrative newspaper strip. Bob Kane cut a hell of a deal with DC on his co-creation Batman in the late 1940s by threatening to throw his weight behind Siegel and Shuster when they sued for Superman ownership unless DC renegotiated with him–consequently earning a hefty gross percentage on all things Batman until he relinquished most of his rights in the late 1960s for a reported million dollars. Simon and Kirby were guaranteed a percentage of Captain America and, when they suspected they’d been cheated, let DC hire them away for a sizeable sum. There were a few other creators in that time who were powerful enough or savvy enough or both to carve out unusual deals, but 95% or more of their peers were paid flat rates, and to some degree, that’s how it works today if you’re working for a comics publisher–you’re paid an agreed-upon rate for each page of material you produce.In the ‘80s, the powers that be at DC and Marvel (at the time, really the only games in town) overhauled their systems and added royalties to the mix. Unless you were working on top-tier characters like Spider-Man or Teen Titans, the thresholds weren’t easy to meet–initially, at DC, books available on the newsstand had to sell 100,000 copies before royalties were paid, 40,000 copies for books sold strictly to comics shops, and not many did, (but you could dream!); at Marvel, sales were higher but royalties were divided differently between writers and artists. Pluses and minuses to both sides, but an upgrade nonetheless. Both companies also revamped their work-for-hire contracts to guarantee payment for reprints, collections and reissues. Moreover, DC (under the guidance of publisher Jenette Kahn and exec Paul Levitz) drew up a creator-equity agreement for the talent, granting a small but significant percentage of all revenue on new characters created by writers and artists. Marvel later followed suit with something similar, and while sales (and royalty thresholds) have moved up and down over the years, that’s pretty much the way the system’s worked ever since.

By way of example, let’s take Impulse, a character I co-created with artist Mike Wieringo. Mike and I signed a contract that grants us a small percentage of all revenue DC might earn off Impulse action figures, merchandise, guest-starring roles on Young Justice or Smallville, what have you. It’s hardly buy-a-boat money; I get maybe a couple hundred bucks off of every action figure (because of the equity deal) and a few cents off every trade paperback collection or digital sale (because of the royalty agreement), but it adds up and I do see something, enough for a nice meal every few months. And that’s the deal I agreed to at the time, and that’s fine. But that’s the limit of DC’s legal, contractual obligation to us.

The confusion about extra-media compensation arises in that Levitz, while he was DC’s publisher, made it a policy to cut respectable bonus checks to writers and artists, regardless of legal obligation, if elements from any of their stories (even work-for-hire ones) made it into outside media adaptations movies or TV shows. Did you like the scene in Batman Begins where young Bruce Wayne climbs a Himalayan mountain holding a blue flower? Christopher Priest got paid for having come up with that. Or the scene where Bruce Wayne picks out a potential Batmobile from among his own holdings? That was lifted from a Chuck Dixon-written comic, and Paul sent Dixon a check to acknowledge that. Same with dozens of similar moments in cartoons, DVDs, and so forth and so on. It wasn’t legally necessary, it was totally at Paul’s discretion and only Paul knows what math he used to determine what he felt would be fair, but it was a goodwill gesture from an exec sympathetic to the creative community.

And most critically, it wasn’t a written policy or guarantee. It was a courtesy.

Once Paul left, that courtesy was deemed no longer necessary by the executives and the policy was rolled back, as was DC’s absolute prerogative. Currently, DC pays bonuses only on material that’s a straight and highly faithful adaptation of existing work; for instance, Frank Miller (rightfully) got a check for the recent DARK KNIGHT RETURNS animated movies, but if the next animated film takes its plot from (say) BATGIRL: YEAR ONE but calls it “BATMAN: BATGIRL BEGINS” and adds anything to the story, Chuck Dixon and Marcos Martin will receive nothing. DC has removed itself from the complicated business of having to evaluate how much certain adapted elements are “worth” and instead simplified the system to “pay” or “don’t pay,” with “don’t pay” the default. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to learn, for example, that I’d be receiving no compensation for the JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM animated film even though WB was actively billing it as based on my and Howard Porter’s JLA: TOWER OF BABEL, but I couldn’t be angry or resentful and have a leg to stand on. DC or its owners, Warner Bros., were not legally entitled to compensate me for re-use of dialogue or plots or concepts because there was no contract that said they’d have to (and unless things have changed recently, such a contract would never have been an option). Moreover, they have no motive to issue compensation; paying courtesy bonuses don’t benefit the stockholders in any way, nor do they in any way uptick profits or sell more comics.

Would it be nice if the policy were different? Sure, but “nice” is a human behavior, and I say this without one hint of snark or cynicism, simply as fact: corporations are not designed to act based on society’s expectations of ethics or morality. They are designed to generate profit, and a responsible, publicly traded company will by design prioritize profit over all else. “Yeah, but…” No. Corporations aren’t people, my friends. It’s not unfair for us to expect people to base their behavior on a variety of factors–that’s kinda the definition of “society”–but a corporation isn’t built to be “fair” any more than is my coffee table. You may not like that, you may wish it were different, but that’s reality in the here and now. It is not a complaint any more than it is to say that the speed of light is constant. It just is.

A short summary that surprised me a bit is that DC Comics will pay you for when your character is used as merchandise or toys and your trade paperbacks will receive royalties but that when DC Comics paid you for your story concepts being used it was a courtesy and not part of the rules.

I cannot help but admire Mr Waid more than just a bit for not railing at an injustice for the pay structure, knowing that it is what it was when he signed his deals.  That said I’m disappointed that his work basically generated a movie for Warner Bros, Justice League: Doom, and he got nothing more than an acknowledgement on the packaging and in the promotions.

To be honest I suspect the biggest reason he does work-for-hire for DC Comics is simply that he enjoys working on these particular characters and would not have the chance if he created his own stuff and stuck to that exclusively.  I speak from ignorance on that front, of course, and could not say whether he gets paid more or less than for his own creations.

In an interview with The Wrap Len Wein directly compared these rules concerning Marvel Comics’ compensation to DC Comics’ compensation.  Mr Wein co-created Wolverine, whose  fifth movie (as I count the films) just came out last month, and Lucious Fox, who was a prominent character in the Dark Knight Triloy, as well as many other characters.

“When I work for DC, anything I create I get a piece of,” said Wein. “Lucius Fox, for example, who was in the last trilogy of Batman movies played by Morgan Freeman, bought my new house. At Marvel, I did see a check off ‘The Wolverine,’ the current film. But as a rule I don’t any of the ancillary money off of all of the toys and soaps and shampoos and skateboards and God knows what else that features the character.”

Though Wolverine has appeared in six films, Wein was only paid for the latest one because of esoteric rules requiring the film to be named after the character, he said. The rules are strict enough that he wasn’t paid for “X Men Origins: Wolverine.”

“They sent me a not-unreasonable check for the latest one,” he said.

When pressed on the amount, he only that it wouldn’t be enough to pay for another house.

These rules definitely seem twisted to me.  Despite that, Mr Wein, as well as Gerry Conway, did not seem angry.  I like how Mr Conway put it when describing his financial relationship with his co-creation the Punisher.

“To be fair, the companies are at this point trying to find ways to compensate people,” Conway said. “Because of the nature of the way the business was at the time … we knew what we were doing. We didn’t think any of this was going to have any legs. We thought the business was going to collapse, to be honest with you.”

If my opinion meant anything then certainly the respective companies should not act as if they owe the creators anything however the best thing to do would be to extend a very generous set of courtesies, if nothing else to create incentive for more original creations.  The most recently created Marvel Comics character is Deadpool, from the 1990s.  Before that the youngest Marvel characters to receive video games and movies are the Punsher, Ghost Rider, and Wolverine!  Those are Bronze Age 1970s characters!  That basically means that aside from four properties all of Marvel Comics’ multimedia franchises were created in the 1960s by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko!  I am not counting revamps like what happened to the X-Men in the seventies.