Posts Tagged ‘Fox’

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

WHY I WON’T BE WATCHING FOX’S “GOTHAM” THIS FALL:

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.)

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TMNT Entity, as a blog of note

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

In my ongoing pedantry I’ve been stuck on the idea (since I learned of it, probably from Elliot S. Maggin’s Superman novel Miracle Monday, I think) that the word “fan” meant “fanatic”, which meant there was a distinct difference between “I like this” and “I am a fan”.

So while I’ve certainly watched most of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon shows, and a high percentage of the episodes I can definitely tell you that I am not a fan, as I never watched all of them.  I really really like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It’s a great concept and it sprung from a comic book back in the early 1980s and from there it because three live action films from New Line, a cartoon from Fred Wolf Films that was both UHF syndicated and aired on CBS in later seasons simultaneously, a FOX children’s cartoon show made with non-union voice actors whose primary jobs were dubbing Japanese anime released in this country, a FOX Kids live-action television series made by the producers of the Power Rangers, a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip, a comic book series from Archie Comics spinning off of the 1980s cartoon series, an anime, a comic book series from IDW, a CGI-animated film, a straight-to-television animated film, prose novels for children, a Nickelodeon-owned CGI-animated cartoon series, a ton of action figure sets, each released for a different children’s cartoon series,  and that does not include all of the licensed merchandise like lunch boxes, mugs, t-shirts, tooth brushes, underpants, etc. Knowing that sounds like obsession.  Sadly remembering that information off the top of my head is how my brain works.  It collects and retains knowledge of useless stuff I learned decades ago with amazing retention of detail.  I think it’s a learning disorder because I’ve been meeting people lately and I swear that despite the familiarity they show I don’t even remember their faces (it’s probably less rude to be honest and ask how we last met rather than lie to them even convincingly).

Now because I like TMNT, a lot, but am not an actual honest to goodness fan, I only read TMNT Entity on occasion.  Mark Pellegrini is a fan, as in fanatic, and I will not fault him for it.  (And why should I fault him for it?  I’m a fan of Spider-Man and Batman, and certain eras of Star Wars and Transformers).  The man seems to have taste and his knowledge of the subject seems immense.  He is also extremely well-read in terms of the given material, as well as enough other things that we don’t have to worry about him not knowing if something is based off of something else.

I’m holding back a little, in part because there’s something else of his I want to praise later and give that more time.

As it is while Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a franchise is certainly well-known among cable-watching children today, and adults who were children in the eighties and nineties, with a viewing audience that sadly dwarfs the reading audiences of major comic book series, it is all still based on an series of comic books that were published by Mirage Comics. They were created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, at first as a spoof of Frank Miller’s Daredevil and then as an action adventure series with a side of comedy.  The average intended output was six issues a year and whose average actual output was four issues a year.  I’m fairly certain that as it was an independent comic book with that distinct flavor it sold less than Superman and X-Men and perhaps the people that were readers of only the Big Two back in the early eighties did not know it existed.  Or maybe they did.  I was born in 1981, what do I remember?

From the Mirage Comic was licensed a cartoon series and spun from that cartoon series was a comic book series published by Archie Comics, licensed from Mirage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures.  So an independent comic with an erratic output beget a daily cartoon show beget a monthly comic book.  I’m fairly certain that the audiences for the two comics were such that it was not an actual competitive product, any more than the Super Friends comic was a competitor of the Justice League of America.

The Mirage Universe version of the Turtles made many many canonical appearances not simply in their own regular comic book (of which there were three volumes, or four depending on who you ask), but in various anthologies and Micro-Series one-shots, as well as numerous back-up stories.  In fact whenever Mirage published a reprinting of one of their issues they made certain that new material was included, usually back-up stories which fit into the overall continuity.

This makes recognizing/establishing a continuity of these characters a formidable task at best.  But the writer of TMNT Entity did it, right here.  Now as fascinating as I find the whole story, both of how the comic was made, how the company worked, and the events of the characters themselves, I still am not a fan of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, or any of the franchise as a whole.

But I liked it a lot.  I watched every episode I could as a kid. I thought the action figures were cool.  And so the TMNT burnt into my brain.