Did anyone tell creator Don McGregor they were remaking Lady Rawhide? UPDATED with Dynamite’s Response

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201305300428 Did anyone tell creator Don McGregor they were remaking Lady Rawhide? UPDATED with Dynamites Response
Dynamite has been reviving the fertile pulp coffers of late for such characters as the Shadow and the Spider and so on, and even Lady Rawhide, a female sidekick for Zorro who starred in several Topps comics back in the 90s.

Dynamite Entertainment proudly announces the August 2013 debut of LADY RAWHIDE #1, the first chapter of a five-part miniseries that will dynamically reintroduce the iconic Western heroine to comic book fans. Written by Eric Trautmann (RED SONJA,VAMPIRELLA) and featuring interior artwork by Milton Estevam, LADY RAWHIDE #1 features cover artwork by the preeminent “good girl” artist, Joseph Michael Linsner (DAWN).

But unlike those other pulp characters, Lady Rawhide does not date back to the misty pre TV days of cheap magazines: she was created by writer Don McGregor and artist Mike Mayhew for Topps—as her skimpy “Bad Girl era” attire (and Linsner version) suggests. And McGregor is writing on Facebook that he wasn’t even consulted about the revival:

From CARL BOOTH:
Damn, glad to see Lady Rawhide is back, but no mention of the creator, Don McGregor!!!
From DON McGREGOR:
First I’m reading about it. I created Lady Rawhide, and wrote every Topps comic featuring her. Zorro Productions has a contract with me that I get a percentage of anything done with characters I created. Are Zorro Productions and Dynamite now screwing creators?

Uh oh another older creator who signed a bad contract? McGregor says he actually negotiated a royalty deal with Zorro Productions and when asked “Does it ever stop?” replies:

Apparently not. Not even when you meet personally with the head of Zorro Productions and have it put in writing. I was weary of creating characters and then people who could not create would see ALL the money derived from them. Marvel wanted me to come back, at the time I was just starting to research Zorro, and create an alien world for Professor X. I preferred working with Jim Salicrup, and was so invested by that time in creating Lady Rawhide, Machete, Moonstalker, Star Wolf, Scarlet Fever and the others that I didn’t have time to even do a series for Milestone. I had a strong story that I told Dwayne McDuffie when he approached me, and he never flinched. But I never would have been able to keep his deadline, especially when Zorro Vs. Dracula came along.

In a later post he writes:

I would not have written the Zorro series without creating Lady Rawhide. As Jim Salicrup can tell you I could not commit to a monthly book that that did not have any women in the series. I did not do Lady Rawhide in the newspaper strip, and created Eulalia Bandini, because Lady Rawhide’s character was such a source of contention with some people at Zorro Productions until she became so popular.

I fought hard for her character through-out the series

At press time, Dynamite had not responded to inquiries.

Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci has responded with this comment, which as one Beat commenter points out that the book hasn’t even been published yet, let alone become profitable enough for royalties.

Sigh Don. Just sigh. I’m running around the city in meetings. Funny coincidence – Last night I had a meeting with two comics creators, and the interesting thing about when they talk about royalties. They get them after the book ships and after the end of the reporting period. You know, the way the world works. They don’t seem to get paid based on an announcement. Now, a book gets announced and Don is already being screwed out of any financial compensation that he has an agreement on? I doubt it. I’ve worked with the Zorro Property Owners for 4 years, and they always honor not only their contracts, but their word. I’m not speaking for them, but saying what in my experience and what I can comfortably say for the experience that I’ve had with Matt Wagner and others.

Don talks about “honest failure” to the audience. I guess it’s ok if he lets them down. I have a lot of respect for Don. But this was unfair to Zorro Properties to go out there and make these claims without asking anyone what the release schedule was, the book ships, etc.

It would have been nice if Don would have been professional and asked honest questions before making wild assertions. And then complain if he’s not happy. Which he is happy to do.

Don – feel free to drop me a line directly to answer any questions – nick.barrucci@dynamite.com

 

Comments

  1. Given Dynamite’s history with the whole Valiant/Voyager trademarking mess and the other properties that they’ve tried to co-opt in seedy ways, is anyone the least bit surprised by this?

  2. Given that the comic isn’t coming out until August, McGregor may be prematurely angry. It seems quite possible that Zorro Productions has not yet been paid for the issues, much less had some reasonable cycle for turning about McGregor’s cut. This is not to say that he shouldn’t have been contacted (certainly, it would have been a good idea to see if the talented man was available for writing the new material!) but that doesn’t mean that his contract has been violated.

  3. Y’know, Beat, it’s not just that “older creators” signed bad contracts or made bad deals with the publishers. Very often, it’s that the publishers won’t honor those contracts and deals, secure in the knowledge that many “older creators” don’t have the money or energy to pursue their rights in court.

  4. Barrucci seems very put out about having to respond to this… which, since he’s being asked to comment on someone’s frustrated facebook comment, is actually understandable.

  5. Everyone needs to do their due diligence to make sure they get what they want. It seems like people more often than not freak out on social media first just so they can get some attention out of their fans / friends / whomever. If we had no Facebook acting as a middle man here, Don McGregor (or his lawyer) would have had no choice but to call up Dynamite first thing and get to the bottom of making sure his contract is honored. “Going public” as he did was jumping the gun.

  6. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Y’know, Beat, it’s not just that “older creators” signed bad contracts or made bad deals with the publishers. Very often, it’s that the publishers won’t honor those contracts and deals, secure in the knowledge that many “older creators” don’t have the money or energy to pursue their rights in court.

    Yeah, I’ve often wondered exactly how much time creators with 20+ year careers must have to devote to making sure contracts they signed are honored every time their work is reprinted.

  7. joe c says:

    Don McGregor’s’s always been a little touchy IMHO. Didn’t he once refuse to have review copies sent out for one of his miniseries because he didn’t like the reviews he got for the first miniseries he did?

  8. Nick is a good and fair guy. In the end, he always does the right thing by creators and is upfront about things. I see this as a slip up, that is all.

  9. Doctor Timebomb says:

    The fight for creators’ rights is important, but it’ll be hurt by “boy who cried wolf” behavior. First Elaine Lee and Steve Bissette talk up a storm about Marvel going after Starstruck, only for Lee to then say “nevermind, it’s all cleared up.” Now this. Why people need to put all this out in public before clearing it up through professional channels baffles me. What is the advantage of putting your business out in the streets?

  10. Rich Harvey says:

    ““Going public” as he did was jumping the gun.”

    But that’s jumping the gun … how do you know McGregor didn’t try contacting them first?

  11. “It would have been nice if Don would have been professional and asked honest questions before making wild assertions…”

    Speaking of crybabies, the butthurt here is outstanding. Why weren’t YOU professional by informing Don of all this business before it was made public?

  12. >> I see this as a slip up, that is all.>>

    I don’t even think it’s a slip-up.

    Don’s deal, apparently, is with Zorro Properties. Nick’s license is with them, so presumably the money will flow to them and then from there to Don. If anyone’s obligated to inform Don, it’d be Zorro Properties — who knows if they even told Dynamite about the deal? Since Dynamite wouldn’t be the ones paying Don, it may not even have come up.

    kdb

  13. >> how do you know McGregor didn’t try contacting them first?>>

    Among other things, because Don said that this was the first he’d heard of it, and immediately started complaining that he hadn’t been paid a share of money that hasn’t been made yet.

    There seem to be two things going on here: Don thinks he’s being screwed by not being paid a share of money on a project that isn’t out yet, which is silly, and Don’s mad that no one told him the series was in the works — which, if it’s anyone’s responsibility (and it may not be), it’s not Dynamite’s, but Zorro Properties’s.

    But did Don have an agreement with ZP to tell him ahead of time any time they use the characters? Or just to share in the profits? I have lots of deals with Marvel, DC and other publishers where I get a share on the money made, but they’re not required to inform me every time they decide to use the Thunderbolts, Power Company characters, or whatever. Marvel didn’t call me up and let me know that Stark Tower would be appearing in the AVENGERS movie, either, but I hardly expected them to.

  14. Kurt Busiek, you are the most sensible man in comics. Too bad The Beat can’t have you cover this stuff.

  15. Rich Harvey says:

    ” I have lots of deals with Marvel, DC and other publishers where I get a share on the money made, but they’re not required to inform me every time they decide to use the Thunderbolts, Power Company characters, or whatever.”

    But Zorro Properties doesn’t have that many properties. “Hey, Don, we’re planning a new Lady Rawhide series.” Put it on the back of a postcard.

    Iron Man, yes. The Stark Tower? Nah …

  16. Granted, aside from the terse response to Rich Johnston’s questioning, there is no evidence that Nick had any intention of including Don, not even for a preemptive endorsement from the character’s creator, as sampled by the fact that all of this is complete news to Don.

  17. Those gleefully pointing out that Don McGregor is complaining about royalties on a book that hasn’t appeared yet (it seems he assumed it had already came out) are probably unaware of the fact that McGregor’s been distracted by more important stuff, such as some health issues involving his wife (he spent yesterday at the hospital for instance). He may have posted on Facebook before getting all the relevant information, but I’d still cut him some slack here.

    McGregor has now posted the following on Facebook, btw:
    “Nick [Barrucci] has my phone number. Would Nick call on Lady Rawhide? If the answer is Yes, then why, when he printed my ZORRO: MATANZAS! did Nick never give me a call, before or after. And why would I think anyone was going to contact me at all when apparently the first I know of it, covers are done, my name is conspicuously absent in interviews. And I’m jumping the gun? I’m unprofessional?”

    The ZORRO: MATANZAS book McGregor mentions (which had its origins as an aborted Topps mini-series) was published by Dynamite three years ago.

  18. george says:

    Tony Isabella said: “Very often, it’s that the publishers won’t honor those contracts and deals, secure in the knowledge that many “older creators” don’t have the money or energy to pursue their rights in court.”

    I’ve read that Gene Colan didn’t join Marv Wolfman’s suit against Marvel, over rights to Blade, because Gene was old and not in great health, and didn’t want to drain his savings on a lawsuit he might lose. And Marv did lose that suit.

  19. >> I’ve read that Gene Colan didn’t join Marv Wolfman’s suit against Marvel, over rights to Blade, because Gene was old and not in great health, and didn’t want to drain his savings on a lawsuit he might lose. And Marv did lose that suit.>>

    It’s also possible that while Marv created Blade while he was an editor at Warren and freelancing for Marvel, Gene may have been exclusive to Marvel and the terms of his deal and its effect of the w-f-h status of what he did could well have been different.

  20. >> Those gleefully pointing out that Don McGregor is complaining about royalties on a book that hasn’t appeared yet (it seems he assumed it had already came out) are probably unaware of the fact that McGregor’s been distracted by more important stuff,>>

    I don’t think I see glee in the posts above, but I’ll note that if Don didn’t have the facts because he was busy with more important stuff, then there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with prioritizing that more-important stuff — as I think we all would — and not accusing anyone of screwing you until you have a chance to find out the facts.

    As it is, this whole kerfuffle seems to have been downgraded from “Publisher screwing freelancer out of rightful payments!” to “Well, it’s have been nice if they gave me a heads-up, because I have a deal that says part of the money that they pay to the licensor will eventually come to me, though the licensor may not have told them that since it’s a deal between me and the licensor, not the publisher.”

    And sure, it’d have been nice. But it’s not being screwed if a wished-for-but-not-essential courtesy didn’t get observed, in an industry where publishing staffs are almost universally overworked.

    Maybe we should save the outrage for actual breaches of responsibility, not questions of etiquette. If Zorro Properties lives up to their deal with Don (and nobody seems to have any indication that they won’t), then the complaint “Publisher not as polite as freelancer who isn’t working for them would wish” is a pretty minor issue for this much pitchfork-and-Frankenstein-rake-ing.

    kdb

  21. Al™ says:

    All this could be avoided if a company that is planning to use a creator’s character would just send a note to that creator, out of courtesy. It must be embarrassing to read about your creations ‘activities’ on the internet first.

  22. Here’s a legitimate question: why do we assume Dynamite has any way of contacting McGregor? It’s not like he has any connection to the company. People are making the assumption that the folks at Dynamite have his phone number on file, when that probably isn’t the case. And as Mr. Busiek has pointed out, Zorro has the contract with McGregor, not Dynamite.

  23. “and not accusing anyone of screwing you until you have a chance to find out the facts.”

    From what I see in Don’s posts, he hasn’t accused Dynamite of screwing him. He’s pointed out that this is the first time he’s heard of this new Lady Rawhide comic, that he has an agreement with Zorro Productions regarding the use of the character, and he’s raised a question about what Dynamite intends to do regarding this. At most you could blame him for using some inflammatory language when phrasing the question.

  24. “It’s also possible that while Marv created Blade while he was an editor at Warren and freelancing for Marvel”

    Wolfman says he came up with the idea while he was an editor at Warren, but that he wrote the first appearance of the character after he’d left Warren.

    I don’t think Colan had any kind of “exclusive” arrangement with Marvel at the time (not in the way we understand the term today, and not in a way that would be relevant to the w-f-h status of his work). Freelancers like Colan were “exclusive” only in the sense that they were expected to stay loyal to the company as long as they were receiving enough work. But they didn’t have a legal obligation to work only for the company.

  25. >> From what I see in Don’s posts, he hasn’t accused Dynamite of screwing him.>>

    Okay, he’s rhetorically asked if they’re screwing him.

    >>Freelancers like Colan were “exclusive” only in the sense that they were expected to stay loyal to the company as long as they were receiving enough work. But they didn’t have a legal obligation to work only for the company.>>

    Not so. Some creators did have exclusive agreements; I don’t know if Colan was one of them, or what they specified about w-f-h, but exclusive contracts are older than you think.

  26. >> Here’s a legitimate question: why do we assume Dynamite has any way of contacting McGregor?>>

    It seems like an odd thing to lie about. Don says Nick has his phone number, and I think we can assume that’s accurate.

    Also, Don has a Facebook page — it’s rare these days that there’s no easy way to contact most comics creators.

  27. I’ve just read the reply, at Comics Beat, by Dynamite Entertainment’s Nick Barrucci. I’m very disappointed in that he skirts the issue and concentrates on something entirely different. Don’s concern was that his creation Lady Rawhide was being revived but that no one at Dynamite had the professional courtesy to let him know about it ahead of time, and that he had to read it in the press.

    The royalties issue is tangential. Barrucci snidely makes it seem as if Don doesn’t know that royalties only accrue after published costs are recouped — of course he knows that. Everybody in publishing knows that. So that’s not what Don was saying. He was saying, “Dynamite didn’t breathe a word about it to me EVEN THOUGH we have a contract with royalties and rights specified.”

    And then Barrucci has the nerve to call Don unprofessional. You know, Don’s not some mutant precognitive. He’s not able to tell the future and just “sense” that Lady Rawhide was being revived. It was Dynamite’s responsibility to tell him. Was it a legal responsibility? I don’t know without being privy to the contract. But it’s sure a responsibility in order not to be a schmuck.

  28. “Well, it’s have been nice if they gave me a heads-up, because I have a deal that says part of the money that they pay to the licensor will eventually come to me, though the licensor may not have told them that since it’s a deal between me and the licensor, not the publisher.”

    Yeah, Kurt pretty much nails the case specific argument here. And having a licensor for your IP means its really their job to keep you happy, not the responsibility of the customer you wish them to sell your IP to. And Nick Barrucci’s reputation for “creator respect” is pretty damn solid, so I feel sorry for him getting muck-raked like this.

    But it does seem like that there’s another argument boiling beneath the surface here whenever anyone mentions a potential act of abused authorship in comics; what respect or praise do we owe these originators as artists while their work gets remodeled for a new and bigger marketplace?

    As mentioned above, Dynamite works mostly with licensed properties that have been around for decades and through many different permutations of the popular market. This means that they are a company that trades largely on fandom’s sense of history for and continuity with older characters, artist and ideas. Should they have maybe reached out to Don McGregor in their advance marketing? Hell, they can’t exactly make Johnston McCulley (Zorro creator) a household name, but Don McGregor’s just a phone call away and I think anyone who remembers or cares about this character, most likely the mainstay of Dynamite’s comicshop audience for a property like this, would’ve been a lot happier to see his name attached as an endorsement.

    (if Dynamite’s interest is not in the sales to the comicshop market but in the ownership, refitting and management of intellectual properties old enough to have attained a relatively large status of notoriety without yet falling into the public domain, if their interest is making these properties updated and approachable to a wider potential licensing in film, gaming and television markets as I fear it may be, then, like Marvel and DC, there wise to steer clear of clouding the licensing identity with something that is harder to sell and control; the concept of authorship.)

    But authorship is the missing quotient of our appreciation of the real artfullness of comic-making. Authorship is the credit that older creators never worked for and that they were never given until recently.

    As fans we want to see creators named. We want them to receive notoriety for the wonderful flights of imagination, theirs and ours, they have given us. We want them to be recognized as authors, arts, creators.

    A business like Dynamite, dealing with licensors for their product like Zorro Productions and a creator like Don McGregor, willing to make work-for-hire characters for such a licensor, and a set of new freelancers like Trautmann, Estavam and Linser, who want steady jobs through updating a publisher’s portfolio of content rather than selling off their own IP, may be caught up in the business and lose sight of that respect for authorship that we, as fans, believe is a major issue in the industry.

    Since publishers write the paychecks its our job, as fans, to remind them to care more about the authors.

  29. When licensing a property for most products, an advance is paid against future royalties. Is that the case in publishing? If so, isn’t Don entitled to a piece of that? Just curious.

  30. In response to a commenter saying the issue is a mountain made from a molehill and is only about mere etiquette … No. It’s not about “etiquette” or “being polite.” It’s about the reasonable concern that if a publisher isn’t notifying someone with a contractual economic interest in a property then perhaps that’s emblematic of a publisher’s larger business practices. Lord knows it’s not as if the comics industry (like the music industry, or the movie industry, where I believe the term “creative accounting” originated) has always behaved ethically 100 percent. So, no, it’s not a minor “kerfuffle.” It’s a rational and self-protective placing of a spotlight on a publisher who may or may not do the right thing. We’d all like to assume that every publisher will behave honorably in every instance. But is that really a realistic assumption?

  31. >> When licensing a property for most products, an advance is paid against future royalties. Is that the case in publishing?>>

    Depends on the deal, and its terms.

    >> If so, isn’t Don entitled to a piece of that?>>

    On the one hand, that’s not how most creator-participation deals work in comics. On another, even if they did, there are accounting periods — DC doesn’t cut me a check every time some money comes in on ASTRO CITY, they aggregate things and pay on a quarterly basis, but even that quarterly basis is for stuff that came in six months or more ago, not cash that came into the till last week. And on a third hand, as noted, Don’s deal is with Zorro Properties. So griping about Dynamite doesn’t make any sense — at best, money will flow from them to Zorro Productions, and then in whatever accounting cycle ZP has, a portion will go to Don. The idea that a mini-series would be announced and all that accounting would rocket through two companies and into a creator’s hands moments later — even if there was an advance specifically earmarked for Lady Rawhide (as opposed to a general license for Zorro and associated characters, with any character-specific payments coming from after-the-fact royalties), things just don’t move that fast.

    >> It’s about the reasonable concern that if a publisher isn’t notifying someone with a contractual economic interest in a property then perhaps that’s emblematic of a publisher’s larger business practices.>>

    No, no, no.

    People seem very confused about this, or are deliberately trying to blur the lines. Don doesn’t have a contractual deal with Dynamite. So expecting Dynamite to be aware of every deal Zorro Properties has made, so they can keep the ZP-contractees aware of things, doesn’t make any sense. Dynamite’s contractual obligation is to pay Zorro Properties. Zorro Properties probably hasn’t even told them who they have contractual deals to share the money with; that’s their business. Much as, say, Marvel doesn’t tell everyone they license MARVELS or THUNDERBOLTS to that I get a cut of what comes in, and those licensees don’t incur an obligation to keep me posted when they do a Spanish-language reprint, or whatever.

    For that matter, even when the contractual relationship is actually with the company in question, instead of a different one, it’s not in any way “emblematic of a publisher’s larger business practices” if they don’t provide a running report on what they’re doing. For instance, I have a contractual economic interest in the Thunderbolts, in various of the Power Company characters, and a bunch of others. But the fact that Marvel doesn’t tell me when they’re going to relaunch the T-Bolts, or DC doesn’t tell me if Striker Z is going to show up in GREEN LANTERN, or Milestone doesn’t tell me that D-Struct would show up on STATIC SHOCK, doesn’t mean they’re evil corporate weasels. Their contractual agreement isn’t to keep me informed of every move they make, after all. It’s to pay me the appropriate share when money comes in. If they do that, we’re fine; that was the deal.

    [You can argue that stiffing Kirby and other creators makes them evil weasels, but that's not anywhere near the same thing as not telling me ahead of time if they're going to use a character I have a financial interest in.]

    People are making wild assumptions — I’ve seen it claimed that Don owns the character in question, which as far as I know isn’t true; Zorro Productions owns her, and Don has a contractual share of what they realize off her. RobBerry phrases things in such a way as to suggest that Lady Rawhide is Don’s IP and Zorro Properties is licensing her out on Don’s behalf, making sales as he wishes them to. Again, no. Zorro Properties is licensing their own IP, as they choose to, and Don has a deal with them where he gets a share.

    This is not an unusual deal — Rob Liefeld has a financial interest in Deadpool and Cable, Chuck Dixon has a financial interest in Bane, and there are thousands of other examples. But Marvel and DC don’t give them a running update on what’s going on with the characters. They just pay them, as appropriate, when the characters generate money.

    If someone wants a deal where the property owner will keep them posted, they can try to negotiate one. But I’d imagine the company would resist, in the case of company-owned characters, simply because it’d be a hassle to do it. That kind of deal does exist for creator-owned deals, but then, in such cases the creator is the property owner.

    But the idea that if a publisher doesn’t keep a work-for-hire creator updated on what’s going on with a character it casts their business ethics into doubt just doesn’t hold water. Much less when the publisher has no deal with that creator at all, and any obligation lies with someone else.

  32. For those still trying to wrap their heads around this:

    Red Sonja is owned by Red Sonja LLC, but Roy Thomas co-created her, and he has some financial interest in the character, I’ve been told.

    So replace “Lady Rawhide” with “Red Sonja” in the various arguments being made.

    Does Roy’s deal with Red Sonja LLC mean that Dynamite is obligated to inform Roy every time they do a Red Sonja project? Or do the various other licensees of Red Sonja LLC have to keep Roy informed?

    Does it say bad things about company ethics if Roy doesn’t get a call every time someone does a Red Sonja book?

    Next up, we can replace “Red Sonja” and “Roy Thomas” with “Lucius Fox” and “Len Wein.” Or “Arkham Asylum” and “Denny O’Neil.”

    Len, as long as I’ve mentioned him, got money from every episode of THE HUMAN TARGET that aired on TV. He doesn’t get notified every time DC decides to do something with Christopher Chance. Which of those two factors speaks more to DC’s business practices, whether they paid him or whether they keep him informed?

  33. Chris Hero says:

    DC is the worst possible example of a comic publisher acting ethical. Beyond that, comic publishers, on the whole, don’t have the history to justify receiving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a question of comic creators being treated ethically in regards to creator ownership deals. It’s a bit disturbing to see people run to defend a company against a creator even though the creator was wrong this one time. It’s well beyond disturbing to see someone bring up DC as an example of a company that treats creators well.

  34. “Not so. Some creators did have exclusive agreements; I don’t know if Colan was one of them, or what they specified about w-f-h, but exclusive contracts are older than you think.”

    I know Marvel had people hired as staffers, who would freelance for the company outside of office hours (Don McGregor was one of these). But I wasn’t aware of exclusive agreements for freelancers at the time (people who didn’t keep regular office hours at Marvel, but who nevertheless had a legal obligation to only produce work for Marvel).

    Out of curiosity, do you have an example of someone who had an exclusive agreement during the period we’re talking about (early 1970’s)?

  35. Out of curiosity, do you have an example of someone who had an exclusive agreement during the period we’re talking about (early 1970′s)?

    Stan Lee was signed to an employment contract in 1968, when Martin Goodman sold Marvel to Perfect Film.

    Kirby was offered one in 1970, but he didn’t like the terms. It was what finally prompted him to move over to DC. When he returned in 1975, he was under contract.

    The policy of written contracts for major creators appears to have begun in 1974, when Roy Thomas became a writer/editor. According to Gene Colan’s declaration in the Kirby heirs suit, he began working for Marvel under contract in 1975.

  36. >> DC is the worst possible example of a comic publisher acting ethical. >>

    Oh, no, there are much worse.

    And as ever, ethical behavior is not mono-state — DC has done many objectionable things, and has done many things right. If you’re unable to distinguish between the two because of the word “publisher,” then you’re not really in a position to talk about ethics.

    >> Beyond that, comic publishers, on the whole, don’t have the history to justify receiving the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a question of comic creators being treated ethically in regards to creator ownership deals.>>

    We’re not talking about a creator ownership deal.

    >> It’s a bit disturbing to see people run to defend a company against a creator even though the creator was wrong this one time. >>

    Really? You think it’s disturbing to see people defending someone against someone who was wrong? That just because it’s a publisher, if the other party is wrong, it doesn’t matter? I’ve spent a lot of time arguing that publishers should treat creators better, but I’d never argue that if they’re a publisher they shouldn’t get defended if the guy making attacks on them is wrong.

    For instance, DC — your idea of the worst example of ethical behavior ever — hired Jack Kirby to design Fourth World toys as a way of getting him a creator-participation share on those characters once that kind of deal existed, even though his earlier contracts didn’t give him anything. That strikes me as a positive, helpful, praiseworthy thing to do, and a step a lot of other publishers (including Marvel) wouldn’t take. Is it a bad thing to say that’s to DC’s credit, just because they’re a publisher and therefore unethical in all things ever even when the other guy was wrong?

  37. >> According to Gene Colan’s declaration in the Kirby heirs suit, he began working for Marvel under contract in 1975.>>

    Ah, there we go. Then he wouldn’t have been under one in ’72.

    kdb

  38. >> It’s a bit disturbing to see people run to defend a company against a creator even though the creator was wrong this one time. >>

    It is, I suppose, disturbing if “solidarity” rather than “fairness” is the goal.

    But in this case, as the first person to have posted a comment that could be taken as defending a publisher, let me note that I have a somewhat strange place in the venn diagram of comics, being simultaneously a publisher (of the About Comics line, including such things as the trade paperback of Mr. Busiek’s Liberty Project) and a freelance creator working for other publishers (currently writing stories for the Peanuts comic book for Boom!). As such, all of the publisher/creator conflict that runs through comics is of interest, and there are some very strong real issues in the field today… but working those through is not helped by the noise of non-issues, and the assumption that every publisher is always screwing every creator does not lend to productive conversation.

  39. Synsidar says:

    I’d be interested in knowing why the people at Dynamite chose Lady Rawhide as the title character for a miniseries, as opposed to another character, or having someone create one. I doubt that name recognition is a factor. Was it mostly her appearance?

    One of the odd things about focusing on the use of _____’s creation is that he or she might not be used in ways that connect to her previous stories. I haven’t seen any of Topps’ LADY RAWHIDE issues, but the summary of Dynamite’s upcoming LADY RAWHIDE #1 suggests that the content won’t be cerebral:

    Lady Rawhide # 1 sees the masked heroine face not only the corrupt forces of the government, but also a new team of vigilantes known as the Sisters of the White Rose. The Sisters, inspired by the legends of Zorro and Lady Rawhide, have taken up the struggle against tyranny. While Lady Rawhide supports their goals, she cannot condone their bloody methods and finds herself facing off against her own devotees!

    For some people, compensation for the use of the character might matter less than seeing the character used in ways that relate to her creator’s uses for her.

    SRS

  40. Robert, thanks for the information. I wasn’t aware that Colan started working for Marvel under contract in 1975.

  41. george says:

    Colan drew exclusively for Marvel from 1968 to 1981, when he went to DC. He was apparently a freelancer until ’75, when he signed the Marvel contract. (From ’62 to ’66, Colan drew for both Marvel and DC, and he contributed stories to Warren from ’65 to ’67).

    Nat Gertler said: “.. the assumption that every publisher is always screwing every creator does not lend to productive conversation.”

    I used to always take the creators’ side in disputes with the “suits.” Then the Internet was invented, and I was repulsed by fans demonizing every editor and publisher, and attributing base motives to people they didn’t even know. Now I’m more likely to listen to both sides, and keep an open mind.

  42. “Which of those two factors speaks more to DC’s business practices, whether they paid him or whether they keep him informed?”

    Do you mean that we should accept being treated like crap just because they pay us?

    Happy to see The Beat title this article in a way that expects Don to have been informed about the project.

    Sorry to see that ethics, minimal courtesy and respect are no longer a function of the business world and that it’s even more compounded in the comics industry.

    Sorry to have noticed that there was no mention of Don McGregor as creator of Lady Rawhide in any of the promos that Don wasn’t informed about.

    And more sorry to have read Barrucci’s distasteful response to Don, as if Don did anything wrong by calling out his failing to credit him as creator and inform him about the project.

    But most sorry to see your ethical compass having lost all direction, Kurt, and the damage it does to comics creators, by encouraging publishers like Barrucci in their abuse.

  43. “…and the damage it does to comics creators, by encouraging publishers like Barrucci in their abuse.”

    Yeah, I don’t see the abuse here myself and I’m sorry if earlier comments I made seemed to have thrown gas on that fire.

    “So griping about Dynamite doesn’t make any sense — at best, money will flow from them to Zorro Productions, and then in whatever accounting cycle ZP has, a portion will go to Don.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it for the rather direct question of whether Dynamite did Don McGregor wrong. Don made the character for Zorro Productions and this is their own bag-o-chips.

    “RobBerry phrases things in such a way as to suggest that Lady Rawhide is Don’s IP and Zorro Properties is licensing her out on Don’s behalf, making sales as he wishes them to.”

    True, that is what i thought, Kurt. I was hoping Don had made that kind of a deal for his own good though I realize such contracts are rare even today. He has, like a lot of the other cases you cite, essentially created an agreement that pays him for usage without specific ownership or control for the properties future. Artistically sadder perhaps, but likely to be more broadly lucrative for him in the fullness of time.

    But all this does step away from the authorship issue I was hoping we might look at. It still seems clear to me that in comics we don’t accord our creative talent the same direct and notable connection to their characters and stories as they might be have in other media like novels.

    “Next up, we can replace ‘Red Sonja’ and ‘Roy Thomas’ with ‘Lucius Fox’ and ‘Len Wein.’ Or ‘Arkham Asylum’ and ‘Denny O’Neil.’”

    True. And god bless those guys (and Gene Colan and yourself) for figuring out a way to work within a system previously dominated by work-for-hire and negotiate some of the first strong deals for longer returns to creators. But if we go further with the argument and replace “Len Wein” with “Scott Fitzgerald” and “Lucius Fox” with “Jay Gatsby” we see there’s some real basic left of author respect missing from the equation.

    (before all the internet trolls start getting ready to rumble you should know I’m not comparing things here on a qualitative level, I’m not trying to argue the artistic merits of Lucius Fox or Lady Rawhide. But somebody did create those characters for comics and comic fandom, by all accounts, does seem to have a pretty strong history for demanding creator respect. Is it that hard for us to accord them the same connection to their work that we give to novelists?)

    And this is where I think Dynamite dropped the ball by not calling Don McGregor or mentioning him in a press release. Criminal? Certainly not. Unethical? No, not really. But disingenuous behavior coming from a company that makes its living off of historic titles? Yeah, that.

    Kurt, if THUNDERBOLTS got turned into a Saturday morning cartoon and they licensee decided to drastically revamp setting and character background wouldn’t you expect Marvel to bring you in for at least a nod or a blurb about the show’s “new direction”? Wouldn’t expect them to respect the effect you might have on a new audience as the author of that original material?

    Or would it be easier for them to sell the thing without your involvement? If, like Don McGregor, or even Johnston McCulley, the author connection slowly disappears from the IP leaving just an empty shell of costumes and cliches ripe revamp and rebranding?

  44. David D. says:

    I want to take a moment to thank Kurt Busiek for consistently coming to the conversation to provide knowledge, context, and reason. If only that could be captured as an algorithm and used to vet all would-be outrage stories.

  45. “Yeah, I don’t see the abuse here myself and I’m sorry if earlier comments I made seemed to have thrown gas on that fire.”

    It’s not you and it’s not even Kurt. It’s more like the general attitude that we seem to have no choice but to accept the dismissal of creators relative to their work, and the way we’ve come to define ethics by the letter of the law.

    But I think that “disingenuous behavior coming from a company that makes its living off of historic titles” is a good place to start. No mention of the creator in the promos and no one apparently thinking that contacting the creator about reviving their project is necessary. So far, I’ll accept that we can call this only disingenuous.

    However, at the point that it became known that Don had only just found out about it and his rumblings were heard, we might have expected a little understanding from Nick Barrucci. Maybe something conciliatory, expressing some remorse for not having mentioned him in the promos. Maybe even some excuse that might let him off the hook.

    Instead, he came out with both guns, basically trying to make Don look like like a hysterical reactionary. Pretty much insulting the creator of the character that Barrucci thinks can make him a few more bucks on, because the creator felt that removing his attachment as author of the property in that way was disingenuous.

    At this point, I think Barrucci’s response is no longer only disingenuous. It becomes much more like abuse.

    Abuse of the legality that allows a publisher to behave this way in such a case – and abuse of the creator by trying to smear him as if Barrucci is free of any blame and Don just jumped the gun. As if it’s only about the payment and not about the failing of basic regard and respect that should not have to be anchored in every contract. “Call me” he tells Don, as if he’s not the one who should have thought of calling Don to let him know that he likes his character and has licensed it from Zorro.

    I think Barrucci knew exactly what he was doing. He took this path because he knows that most of the industry will see the issue through the legal filter. Barrucci knows that for every voice that might reprimand his abuse, a thousand more will remind everyone that he did nothing illegal nor unethical – and that there will even be some creators who agree with him. What irony. Barrucci also knows he can survive being just “disingenuous”. No biggie.

    I think Nick Barrucci owes Don a lot more than what he’s been willing to offer. He first owes Don McGregor a public apology for his disingenuous way and abusive response.

    I also think we need to begin to apply a more proper weight to the ethical and moral issues in these relationships. We need to let publishers realize that at some point fandom, professionals and creators will cease to accept the rampant disrespect of creators they’ve become used to flaunting.

  46. “I want to take a moment to thank Kurt Busiek for consistently coming to the conversation to provide knowledge, context, and reason. If only that could be captured as an algorithm and used to vet all would-be outrage stories.”

    With all due respect, I’ll take the bench on that one. I think we’re at a point where the outrage needs to be heard loud and clear – not muddied down in some algorithm.

  47. I’m just astonished someone *wants* to have their name associated with a piece of sub-soft-porn twaddle like Lady Rawhide. Though it’s nice to see we’re getting more of Don’s ridiculous attempts to rationalise/justify the character, which, as more than one reviewer remarked, were the only entertaining bits of the original comics.

    “I could not commit to a monthly book that that did not have any women in the series. So here’s a character who’s apparently had silicone implants 150 years before they were invented, and wears an outfit that would have gotten her locked up in the real 19th century. Whee, feminism!”

  48. Thank you Kurt Busiek for taking the time to answer my question about licensing in such detail.

  49. I continue to be amazed by some of what I read here, such as commenters saying, “Well, Dynamite only licensed Lady Rawhide from Zorro Productions, which had the contract with Don.” For goodness’ sakes, you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that any encumbrances on a property have to be revealed during what’s call the “due diligence” part of negotiations. There is no question that Zorro Productions would have had to supply Dynamite with copies of contracts related to anything involving the character. If Zorro were to have hidden something from Dynamite, Zorro would have opened itself up to litigation. So to suggest that Dynamite somehow “didn’t know” about Don’s contractual interest in the character is disingenuous at best.

    Again: Not giving Don a courtesy call to tell him his character was going to STAR in a new series — which is very different from Kurt Busiek talking about one of his characters making a guest or an incidental appearance — is inconsiderate and unprofessional. And if a company is gong to be inconsiderate and unprofessional about such a minor thing, it’s reasonable to wonder what it’s going to be like about a major thing, such as credit and such as royalties.

  50. Ed Brubaker says:

    robberry – the obvious difference is that The Great Gatsby wasn’t written work-for-hire, and has always been copyright to its author. In a work-for-hire deal, and creating a spinoff of an established character like Zorro, both the writer and the company paying them agree that the corporation is the author and has full ownership and control of the work. This is how all company-owned properties work, from Marvel and DC to Alloy Entertainment and their Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries series.

    There are plenty of other avenues available in comics, and there were just as many in the 90s, for keeping ownership and control of your work, and anyone working in comics the past several decades is well aware of what signing a work for hire and giving away your rights means. Don’t sign away your rights if you want to be considered the author in any real way.

  51. >> But if we go further with the argument and replace “Len Wein” with “Scott Fitzgerald” and “Lucius Fox” with “Jay Gatsby” we see there’s some real basic left of author respect missing from the equation.>>

    No, what you see is that there’s a different kind of deal. If you replace “Lucius Fox” with “Sabre” or the characters from DETECTIVES INC., then they’re in the same position as Gatsby — you gotta get those rights from Don.

    But if Don writes ZORRO, and does so knowing that he’s not going to have any ownership of the results, and chooses to create a new character (indeed, as he’s noted, insists on it), striking a deal that gives him no control or ownership, but a financial interest, then insisting that he cares a lot about the character so everybody who licenses the character from the company he sold it to should treat him nice doesn’t really hold up.

    In the case of Kirby and Simon and Shuster and Blade and Wolverine and others, there are legitimate questions about whether all rights to the character were sold, whether it was work-for-hire or a revocable transfer, and so forth and so on. But in the case of Lady Rawhide, this was not a deal made in an industry that would allow no others, or a deal made with no supporting paperwork, and after-the-fact assumptions made. Don knew that creator-owned deals were available, he knew this wasn’t one, he negotiated the deal he made directly, and he had full knowledge of what he chose to sign.

    It’s not an “everyone understood the unwritten policies” situation. It’s not a “he didn’t know any better” situation. It’s a “he chose to sell all rights to someone else” situation.

    If at that point, he wants to be treated as if he didn’t sell all rights, that’s his mistake, not others being unethical. He sold the rights to Zorro Properties, they licensed it to someone else. It doesn’t make sense for him to expect Dynamite to be aware of the terms of his deal with ZP, only their deal. And if he wanted to be consulted every time ZP licensed the rights to someone else, then he probably should have taken that up with ZP.

    >> Kurt, if THUNDERBOLTS got turned into a Saturday morning cartoon and they licensee decided to drastically revamp setting and character background wouldn’t you expect Marvel to bring you in for at least a nod or a blurb about the show’s “new direction”?>>

    No. Heck, they’ve drastically revamped THUNDERBOLTS in the comics at least three times, and haven’t contacted me ahead of time.

    >> Wouldn’t expect them to respect the effect you might have on a new audience as the author of that original material? >>

    There have been times they’ve done that — they did it once after they’d decided on and announced a major revamp of the team without consulting me at all, gotten bad reaction and then asked me to read the material and provide a promo blurb if I liked it, as damage control.

    But I don’t expect them to do it, and I certainly don’t pitch a fit on the internet when they don’t.

    And again, my deal is with Marvel. If Marvel licensed T-BOLTS to Universal, or to Pocket Books, or some other company, I don’t expect that other company to be aware of Marvel’s deal with me. I don’t expect it to have come up.

    That doesn’t mean I’d be offended if it did come up, merely that I’m not going to kick if it doesn’t. I think lots of comics creators in the past have been cheated. I think there are people still being subjected to ridiculously-unfair deals today. But that doesn’t mean that I think all deals are unfair — the guy who writes the next STAR TREK movie won’t own what he does, and the guy who writes the next X-MEN comic won’t, either. If you make up new supporting characters for ZORRO, knowing that you’re not going to have any control of the result, that’s not a surprise, that’s not a cheat, that’s an eyes-wide-open deal. If you negotiate yourself a financial share, then good — that’s a good thing, and I hope it makes lots of money.

    But complaining that a licensee didn’t give you a heads-up? Sorry.

    >> Or would it be easier for them to sell the thing without your involvement? If, like Don McGregor, or even Johnston McCulley, the author connection slowly disappears from the IP leaving just an empty shell of costumes and cliches ripe revamp and rebranding? >>

    If you don’t want your creations to turn into empty shells, don’t sell them work-for-hire. Handing full ownership to someone else always — always — carries the risk that the owner will do things with the result that you don’t like.

    That doesn’t mean no one should do work-for-hire, or that it’s somehow evil, or that the deals we make should be ignored whenever we feel possessive about the stuff we sold lock-stock-and-barrel to someone else.

    But it does mean that when you knowingly make one of those deals, you are granting advance permission for the owner to do whatever they want. That right wasn’t cheated out of you, or tricked out of you. After living through the Kirby art-returns situation, the Gerber lawsuit and more, and making creator-owned deals himself, Don knows what work-for-hire means.

    If you want to treat the character as your beloved baby, don’t sell it into slavery before it’s born.

  52. >> There is no question that Zorro Productions would have had to supply Dynamite with copies of contracts related to anything involving the character.>>

    Right. There’s no question that they didn’t do any such thing.

    Are you seriously imagining that every time DC licenses Batman or Wonder Woman, they supply the licensee with copies of their original contracts with Kane and Marston?

    They don’t. What will be in the contract is (a) an assertion that they own all the rights they need to enter the deal, and (b) an indemnification clause that says that if there’s a lawsuit or other problems arising from them having lied about that, then Dynamite is off the hook for any damages and it’s all on Zorro Properties.

    Licensing deals don’t include copies of all previous contracts. They simply don’t.

    >> If Zorro were to have hidden something from Dynamite, Zorro would have opened itself up to litigation. So to suggest that Dynamite somehow “didn’t know” about Don’s contractual interest in the character is disingenuous at best.>>

    No, it’s not. If Zorro were to have lied to Dynamite, they’d have opened themselves up to possible litigation. Which is why Dynamite would want the indemnification clause to protect themselves from any blowback.

    But Dynamite has no reason to be aware of how Zorro Properties is going to divvy up the check when it comes in.

    If Zorro Properties were to license Lady Rawhide for a movie, then there’d probably be a chain-of-title clause, and they’d supply the contract. Or maybe they wouldn’t — after all, Marvel licensed the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men and others, and didn’t _have_ contracts proving chain-of-title. They were just willing to fight it out in court if it came to that, and they indemnified Sony and Fox from any blowback.

    >> Again: Not giving Don a courtesy call to tell him his character was going to STAR in a new series — which is very different from Kurt Busiek talking about one of his characters making a guest or an incidental appearance — is inconsiderate and unprofessional.>>

    Frank, you’re simply imagining how this stuff works, and then insisting on it. You don’t know how comics-licensing contracts work, you don’t know these things are handled. As I asked before, do you imagine that Dynamite is informing Roy Thomas every time they do a new RED SONJA project? Do you think Len gets a call every time a new HUMAN TARGET project gets put in the works? Or that Rob Liefeld gets a call when they launch DEADPOOL projects?

    Your idea of “professional” isn’t borne out by what happens in the profession.

    They inform the licensor, when there is one, to whatever degree the license requires. But Lady Rawhide isn’t Don’s character, she’s Zorro Productions’ character. Insisting that she’s his character, as if he didn’t sell her (and having signed enough of these deals, I’m confident he signed away any question of “moral rights,” too, because that’s boilerplate in these things), is distorting the picture.

    >> And if a company is gong to be inconsiderate and unprofessional about such a minor thing, it’s reasonable to wonder what it’s going to be like about a major thing, such as credit and such as royalties.>>

    Well, I can set your worries straight there, at least: Dynamite won’t pay Don any royalties. His deal is with Zorro Productions, and so is theirs. They’ll pay ZP any appropriate royalties, and ZP will (or should) pay Don. Similarly, credits will be determined by the contract — DC doesn’t leave Bill Finger out of the Batman “created by” credit because they’re inconsiderate, they do it because the contract Bob Kane (or his father) negotiated says that he gets sole credit, and they’re bound by that.

    But judging whether a company will live up to its legal obligations based on whether they live up to an imagined “professional” standard that doesn’t actually exist is not a solid foundation for any reasonable way to gauge things. We should judge whether companies pay royalties and get the credits right based on their track record at doing so, not on whether they live up to an imaginary standard that can’t be shown to exist in the industry.

    kdb

  53. Rich Harvey says:

    KB: “But if Don writes ZORRO, and does so knowing that he’s not going to have any ownership of the results, and chooses to create a new character (indeed, as he’s noted, insists on it), striking a deal that gives him no control or ownership, but a financial interest, then insisting that he cares a lot about the character so everybody who licenses the character from the company he sold it to should treat him nice doesn’t really hold up.”

    Don stuck a deal that recognized him as the creator of Lady Rawhide.

  54. >> For goodness’ sakes, you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that any encumbrances on a property have to be revealed during what’s call the “due diligence” part of negotiations. There is no question that Zorro Productions would have had to supply Dynamite with copies of contracts related to anything involving the character.>>

    Too add one more perhaps-pertinent example: Frank, you wrote several issues of NIGHTSTALKERS. Do you seriously imagine that when Marvel licenses that material to someone else — which they’ve certainly done for foreign-rights deals — they include copies of your vouchers? Along with the nonexistent contracts with Marv & George for Blade and Hannibal King, and with Roy, Gerry and Gene for Frank Drake? Plus contracts proving they own Domini, Janus, the Dreadnoughts and so on?

    Or do you think that licensing only requires the kind of due diligence you’re imagining when it involves new material?

    kdb

  55. “We should judge whether companies pay royalties and get the credits right based on their track record at doing so, not on whether they live up to an imaginary standard that can’t be shown to exist in the industry.”

    I think that’s exactly what we’d like to see change. Everyone makes a choice, strive to change the standard…or accept (and thus support) the continued deterioration into a dog-eat-dog reality that no one can hope to come out of favorably. The grim reality is clear, the question is the position that every individual takes and whether they try contributing toward changing it.

  56. >> Don stuck a deal that recognized him as the creator of Lady Rawhide.>>

    Then he should expect the terms of that deal to be followed.

    If his deal specifies that any project featuring Lady Rawhide carry a credit listing him as creator, that’s the sort of thing ZP should make part of their license with Dynamite, because that’s the sort of thing they’d have to require a licensee to follow through on. I’ve signed movie deals that require them to credit me as creator and to require that sub-licensees credit me, too, in situations where such credits are generally given.

    But if his deal requires him to get a phone call every time a licensee initiates a new project…I’d be very surprised.

    kdb

  57. george says:

    At least the first Blade movie credited Wolfman and Colan as the creators of Blade and Deacon Frost.

    Maybe some historical perspective is needed. Until fairly recently, the idea of owning something you created for a comic book was an alien concept. It just didn’t happen, unless you were Will Eisner. And there was only one Eisner.

    And it’s the same in other pop-culture media, such as movies. The people who create movies virtually never own those movies (unless you were Charlie Chaplin, and there was only one Chaplin). Generally, anything you created for a comic book company, or a movie studio or a TV network, was owned by that company. At the time, most people were happy to get the money, and to see their creations in print or on the screen. It was only later they began to brood over lost income.

    It would be great if Gary Friedrich had cut a deal in 1972 that allowed him to own the copyright on Ghost Rider, and make a fortune on the two movies. But that wasn’t the world he lived in, 41 years ago.

  58. >> Everyone makes a choice, strive to change the standard…or accept (and thus support) the continued deterioration into a dog-eat-dog reality that no one can hope to come out of favorably.>>

    Mike, the idea that the rights and respect afforded to creators in comics is a situation that’s deteriorating is a weird fantasy. It’s been getting better for decades.

    The fact that Don was able to negotiate a creator-participation deal on the character is something he couldn’t have done 15 years earlier, not on a work-for-hire deal on a series like ZORRO. Today, he might have been able to make an even-better deal.

    But if you’re going to argue that we need to _change_ the standard so that it includes what you’re calling for, then that undercuts Frank’s argument that there already _is_ a standard that includes what you’re calling for.

    So you and Frank can argue, if you like, about whether it’s a professional standard to inform Rob Liefeld every time Marvel starts up a DEADPOOL project, or whether you simply want to work toward such a situation. I’ll stick with my response to Frank, which is that he shouldn’t be judging on a nonexistent standard. Even if it’s a wished-for standard that might exist sometime in the future.

    As for efforts to change the “grim reality” that Don got a better deal than anyone who’d worked on ZORRO comics before him, I think that such changes will more likely come through the kind of competition for talent that’s brought about those changes in the past, rather than by your strategy of hurling insults and vituperation at publishers who express exasperation when someone imagines that the publisher’s screwing them and vents about it online.

    In short, I think the success of SAGA, FATALE, HELLBOY, FABLES and others will do more to make publishers aware that they need to be more flexible in deals if they want to compete (indeed, I’ve been seeing it happen) than by saying “This is a war!” and demanding apologies for a publisher showing frustration at internet fulminations that don’t make much sense.

    kdb

  59. >> Until fairly recently, the idea of owning something you created for a comic book was an alien concept. It just didn’t happen, unless you were Will Eisner. And there was only one Eisner.>>

    This is not really true. The major publishers have tried to foster the impression that it was simply a fait accompli that they owned everything, but there are many more historical exceptions than Eisner. For instance, for decades, Wonder Woman was under license to DC, and if they stopped publishing her, rights would revert to the Marston Estate. Joe Simon & Jack Kirby made packaging deals where they owned the material they created. Walt Kelly did POGO for ANIMAL COMICS, then retained ownership as he moved the series to the comic strips.

    But your larger point — that exceptions were rare — is true.

    >> It would be great if Gary Friedrich had cut a deal in 1972 that allowed him to own the copyright on Ghost Rider, and make a fortune on the two movies. But that wasn’t the world he lived in, 41 years ago.>>

    What world he lived in, alas, was murky and unclear, and the publishers have been largely successful at retroactively insisting stuff was “understood” to be work for hire when it may well not have been.

    One of the advances we made since is that publishers became a lot more careful about creating paper trails and spelling this stuff out. And other publishers started offering better deals, which made everyone have to better their terms to compete. Don was one of the early guys into that pool, which helped result in things like him getting a financial participation deal on Lady Rawhide, and companies like DC and Marvel doing creator-owned lines.

    kdb

  60. Synsidar says:

    A major point to make here is that a story is always more important than any character in it is. The only reason to consider a character more important than the story it’s in is that the story merely functions as an ad, promoting the character’s appearances elsewhere.

    Superhero comics might be the only print genre in which characters are routinely considered more important than their stories. None of the reasons for that attitude is complimentary toward people who read superhero comics expecting (or hoping) to be entertained. Why do Marvel and DC constantly worry about providing jumping-on points for new readers? Probably because so many “old” readers are bored stiff by recycled material that they quit buying the comics.

    Why has the expression “Nobody ever dies in comics” been regarded as a pseudo-convention? Probably because if writers were forced to come up with new villains and new plots for stories, they’d have to stop publishing series. Who cares if never letting people, especially villains, disposable characters by their very nature, die robs stories of their drama?

    Whenever someone uses someone else’s character, he has an aesthetic obligation to handle it in a way consistent with its intended purpose(s). Treating it in other ways turns it into a virtual toy–and far too many people already believe that superhero comics readers (and writers) are adults playing with toys to prove them right by obviously making the characters toys.

    SRS

  61. “In short, I think the success of SAGA, FATALE, HELLBOY, FABLES and others will do more to make publishers aware that they need to be more flexible in deals if they want to compete (indeed, I’ve been seeing it happen) than by saying “This is a war!” and demanding apologies for a publisher showing frustration at internet fulminations that don’t make much sense.”

    You may be right, Kurt. Or it may be that both the venues that you and I take are necessary together. I don’t know.

    For now, I just want to say that Nick Barrucci has stepped up to set things right with Don McGregor. I’ve posted the info at my site (avatar link to this comment) with a link to the Facebook photo that he commented on at my FB page.

    I’m happy to put this behind us and thank Nick Barrucci for doing the right thing.

  62. And certainly, at the time Don was doing Lady Rawhide, he was very aware of the concept of owning his creations. He had done so with Detective’s Inc., and with Sabre, and with Ragamuffins (a particularly fine and all-too-infrequently mentioned work that I should reread son.) He was, seemingly, aware of what the Lady Rawhide deal was and what it wasn’t, and chose to enter into it.
    I have been on both sides of licensing contracts for comics material, and the only time that there was a request to see paperwork with a third party confirming the ownership was when there was some strong unlikelihood that the person being dealt with held the rights. The case of Lady Rawhide, where the copyright registrations back to the first publication of her solo title in 1995 (and presumably the earlier appearances in the Zorro series) list Zorro Productions, Inc. as copyright claimant, is not an example of such.

  63. Nick Barucci has posted a long comment on Don McGregor’s Facebook page. I’ll quote what I think are the most important parts:

    “Don – first and foremost, I do apologize for both not stating in the press release your creating Lady Rawhide and also that my comment was a bit of venting and was rushed. It was not intended as such and I apologize.”

    “Your credit will be in the comic, and if you would like to write more Lady Rawhide, let’s talk, and if it can work for both of us, let’s do it. If not, I fully understand.”

    And in a follow-up message:
    “And I will say this for Zorro properties, John wanted, and wants to, ensure that every appearance of Lady Rawhide you get credit and your participation for the money. He has been clear on that. I am giving you my word that he has been clear.”

    Glad to see that everything has been resolved (and that Don’s original posts served an useful function).

  64. >> Glad to see that everything has been resolved (and that Don’s original posts served an useful function).>>

    I’m glad to see things resolved, too, but I’ll note that Don’s original posts also created an angry internet kerfuffle with accusations of screwing freelancers and insults and vituperation that was completely unnecessary, with charges of shams and sinister behavior and accusations of dishonesty that turned out to be completely untrue. A phone call or an e-mail from Don, asking questions instead of venting publicly, could have gotten him the assurance that yes, right from the start they were going to credit him properly and that Zorro Productions would pay him properly.

    It doesn’t take angry mobs and pitchforks to accomplish things, particularly if those things were in the works all along. The lesson to be learned from this may well be: If you have questions, ask. Don’t fly off the handle.

    As Nick noted, if you’re unhappy with the answers, feel free to vent. But at least make an effort at getting the answers first.

  65. Don did write in his original post: “Are Zorro Productions and Dynamite now screwing creators?” That’s the closest thing I could find in all his posts to “accusations of screwing freelancers and insults and vituperation that was completely unnecessary, with charges of shams and sinister behavior and accusations of dishonesty that turned out to be completely untrue” (whew).

    But anyhow, I’m glad things are OK now, and enjoyed reading Nick Barucci’s classy response.

  66. >> That’s the closest thing I could find in all his posts to “accusations of screwing freelancers and insults and vituperation that was completely unnecessary, with charges of shams and sinister behavior and accusations of dishonesty that turned out to be completely untrue” (whew).>>

    Look at the rest of the internet kerfuffle. I didn’t say all those things came from Don personally, merely that venting online caused the kerfuffle which contained all of those. It’s also involved Nick pointing out that Mike was saying stuff that wasn’t true, and spilled over to other publications — as Mark Ellis chose to call Nick Barrucci insulting names for not listing Don as a creator in the press release, and Nick noting that Mark’s doing the same thing to Mike Gustovich. Perhaps that counts as a victory for creators, but it seems like a pretty ugly slanging match for a situation where the actual answers to the questions being raised were both positive and pretty mild.

    “Yes, we’re planning to credit you properly. Yes, they’re going to pay you your proper share. That was always the plan. Sorry we missed mentioning you in the press release.”

    It didn’t take all this (or shouldn’t have) to get to that; even those who think it’s a publisher’s professional responsibility to reach out to creators may be able to understand that in the event of a lapse in that purported standard, creators have other options before starting a public firestorm.

    Communication works two ways, after all. And so, as we’ve seen demonstrated here, does irritation. So when one can accomplish your goals, it may be best to try it before indulging in the other.

    kdb

  67. Ed Brubaker says:

    Kurt – I think owning your own creations in comics has been pretty common since the 60s, if a bit rare (and that’s only if you focus on the US mainstream industry and leave out the undergrounds). But things like Witzend, Gil Kane’s Savage, and Mike Friedrich’s Star Reach, Heavy Metal (and soon after that Epic) were for the most part common knowledge to mainstream writers and artists in the 60s and 70s. By the early 80s, a lot of the most interesting books coming out in the Direct Market were creator-owned. Including Don McGregor’s Sable, which was one of the first non-mainstream books I ever bought at a comic store, actually.

    It has never been as easy to make a living on your own work in any field, not just comics, but the idea that it’s just recently that people could own their own books in comics is absurd. Unless “over 40 years” is considered recent.

    And Kurt is right, too, that creator treatment and participation is much better in mainstream comics than it was 20 or 30 years ago, overall. That doesn’t change the deals from before where creators got screwed, but things like that don’t tend to happen anymore. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t signed away at least part of some creation, and while they came to regret it, they knew what they were doing at the time. I knew I was giving Sleeper to WS, and I wish I hadn’t, but WS was paying me good money to write my story, and that mattered more at that point, than owning it. And that book helped me build everything that I’ve done since then that me and Sean retained full ownership of. Not fake Vertigo-ownership, or ownership in name but the publisher really controls the media rights… real ownership, which I’d known was an option since I was a teenager reading Love and Rockets and Nexus and The Rocketeer and Detectives Inc. and Cerebus and even Epic magazine from Marvel Comics.

  68. >> That doesn’t change the deals from before where creators got screwed, but things like that don’t tend to happen anymore.>>

    Occasionally, they do, but these days when they do it’s at a smaller publisher (some of them still offer pretty onerous deals) or someone coming in from the outside who’s used to videogame deals or suchlike.

    But overall, yeah, there are so many creator-owned books coming out these days, from so many publishers, that from a perspective of the 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s, it’s practically the promised land. The idea that a comics creator in the US could make decent money and own all their material would be a very welcome one.

  69. Ed Brubaker says:

    It can be done, Kurt, and someone like you could certainly do it. The trick is getting the books out as often as possible and keeping the trades in print. Once you’ve got 5 or 10 trades and new ones coming a few times a year, it becomes much easier to survive on your own labors. It’s not as easy as collecting a page rate, but I’m finding it much more rewarding now that my original work isn’t my side project.

  70. Ed Brubaker says:

    And that’s no knock on my time at DC and Marvel. I had my ups and downs there, but I was mostly treated well, and I know I wouldn’t be able to do this now if I hadn’t built an audience on Cap and Gotham Central and other books.

  71. >> It can be done, Kurt, and someone like you could certainly do it. The trick is getting the books out as often as possible and keeping the trades in print. Once you’ve got 5 or 10 trades and new ones coming a few times a year, it becomes much easier to survive on your own labors.>>

    This is what ASTRO CITY has been teaching me, the last couple of decades, and as my health improves, I’m looking forward to exploring it more…

    kdb

  72. “It doesn’t take angry mobs and pitchforks to accomplish things, particularly if those things were in the works all along. The lesson to be learned from this may well be: If you have questions, ask. Don’t fly off the handle.
    As Nick noted, if you’re unhappy with the answers, feel free to vent. But at least make an effort at getting the answers first.”

    The impression this particular case made was bad from the start. Don effectively asked the questions that were passed on by Heidi and Rich. Nick’s answer was given. This set the stage for everything that followed.

    For what it’s worth, Nick’s alright with things as they’ve turned out. I’ve worked with him before on good terms and we’re on good terms again now. He understands why things stepped out of control, accepts his responsibility and regrets it. Don is conciliatory and they’ll be talking later this week about it. I understand my part in it on Don’s behalf, have expressed some regret for it, but am secure in knowing that this is a much better outcome than other options that have been suggested here. The loud voice about it and Nick’s subsequent decision to reach out for Don have raised awareness of the need to respect a creator’s role in a case such as this. And I don’t think it can be compared with most other cases, such as has been suggested in this thread.

    In the end, if Nick feels he made a mistake, as I said I did in one of my statements, that’s a good enough reason to accept the positive outcome for what it is . It’s not clear at all that Don and Nick could have reached the equity they’re expressing for each other now if the affair had not been aired publicly and people flying off the handle.

    Thanks for the advice, Kurt, but it remains as speculation given the cards each player was holding. I’m not sure there was any other way this could have happened in order to get to the good result that’s been achieved.

  73. Kurt has written at such remarkable length that I can’t imagine taking the time to respond to every one of his indignant comments. I will say his reductio ad absurdum arguments are actually kind of funny. I’ve been involved with transfers of commercial real estate and of intellectual property rights (regarding books of mine when a publisher when defunct or was bought out), so I’m not whistlin’ at the turnip truck here. If DC were to sell Wonder Woman to Marvel, let’s say, DC would certainly have to produce chain-of-ownership documentation to show provenance, as well as all contracts THEN IN FORCE. Since most contracts are for a set period of time and not in perpetuity, that means the vast bulk of historic paperwork would be outdated and unnecessary. So, no, DC wouldn’t have to produce every pay stub from 1940, as Kurt seems to suggest.

    My work-for-hire contract with Marvel for Nightstalkers isn’t the same as Don’s with Zorro Productions. I and an artist created Bloodstorm (based on Greg Wright’s initial ideas) and did not negotiate any financial participation in that character. Don DID negotiate financial participation in Lady Rawhide. Apples and oranges, Kurt … or perhaps fangs and whips.

    I could go into other points but one thing I don’t understand: Why is a big-shot, brand-name comics writer taking so much time and effort to rag on old Don McGregor, whose career has never skyrocketed and is justifiably anxious about making a living? It’s surely not because he lacks talent — his 1970s comics work in particular has been praised everywhere from Grant Morrison’s “Supergods” to the current “Entertainment Weekly.” His 2000s Zorro comic strip was equally amazing. Now, I am completely sincere in saying it’s good that talented guy like Kurt get career breaks and became as successful as he deserves to be. But Don, to say the least, is no less talented –and many would say he’s among THE most talented creators ever to have worked in comics … Grant Morrison, for one. So maybe give the guy a break, Kurt. He’s just trying to make a living, and worried about what a publisher’s actions might mean. I don’t believe he name-checked you, so why a brand-name comics star felt it was necessary to go after a struggling 60-something writer is something I just don’t get.

  74. Typo & pronoun trouble: Should be “when a publisher WENT defunct” and “It’s surely not because DON lacks talent”

  75. Hey, Michael: Don’t go on spree throwing meatballs at people today.

    Now that I’ve said it, we have no way of knowing whether you would’ve gone on a spree throwing meatballs at people today without my advice, it would only be pure speculation that you wouldn’t have, so we have to view my message to you as a good thing, right?

    The truth is that there was no sign that Dynamite or the Zorro folks were going to swindle McGregor out of money. The Dynamite folks have been in the business for a fair while, and have done so without generating any reputation that I’ve noticed for swindling people, and in any case would not have been the ones that would’ve owed McGregor money. McGregor has a two decades long relationship with the Zorro folks, and if he has had past payment problems from them, he hasn’t been showing signs of it.

    If you want to act as though your campaign of berating and misinformation helped matters, they you will. But it’s hard to see that anything was gained by this foofraw, much less anything that might not have been gained by McGregor dropping notes to the Zorro and Dynamite folks, asking if he would be getting his cut and credit for the work.

  76. “one thing I don’t understand: Why is a big-shot, brand-name comics writer taking so much time and effort to rag on old Don McGregor, whose career has never skyrocketed and is justifiably anxious about making a living?”

    I don’t see a lot of effort in Kurt’s posts to “rag on old Don McGregor”; about the worst he’s done is to say that he should’ve checked matters out before suggesting he was being swindled, which is neither an unreasonable statement nor a harsh one. Most of his responses were to answer questions or to address the misinformation of others.
    And in addressing McGregor’s suggestion of swindling, he was also serving to defend a publisher that has a good reputation for dealing with creators, and with whom Kurt has worked relatively recently (the Kirby: Genesis series).

  77. Another correction to my most reception post: I think the initial idea for Bloodstorm, a clone of Dracula, came from Steven Grant, not Greg Wright (an estimable creator in his own, well, right). It’s been nearly 20 years, so memory doesn’t always serve….

  78. First, if Kurt’s long and frequent arguments against Don are not “ragging on” him, then it’s a matter of semantic and colloquialism. How about instead of “rag on” we say, “Why is a big-shot, brand-name comics writer taking so much time and effort to criticize in such lengthy, pointed, frequent posts old Don McGregor, whose career has never skyrocketed and is justifiably anxious about making a living?” Here’s another colloquialism for Kurt: Why not pick on somebody your own size? I didn’t see Alan Moore, Mark Waid, Brian Michael Bendis or any other brand-name writer coming here to criticize an old writer in such lengthy, pointed, frequent posts.

    Maybe some writers don’t have to worry about making a living, and don’t have a history of being screwed by publishers. Lucky them. Maybe they shouldn’t criticize someone less lucky, but equally or more talented, who’s struggling to make a living at their art. Wait! Here’s another colloquialism! Don’t kick a guy when he’s down.

  79. >> If DC were to sell Wonder Woman to Marvel, let’s say, DC would certainly have to produce chain-of-ownership documentation to show provenance, as well as all contracts THEN IN FORCE.>>

    Zorro Productions is not selling Lady Rawhide to Dynamite, though, so you’re appling and oranging yourself, here. They’re licensing the character — and comics licenses work as I described. You may have negotiated property sales, but I’ve negotiated publishing licenses. They don’t involve chain-of-title proof, but, as I noted, declarations and indemnifications.

    >> Since most contracts are for a set period of time and not in perpetuity, that means the vast bulk of historic paperwork would be outdated and unnecessary.>>

    Most comics contracts — and those of the sort we’re discussing — are in perpetuity. Unless you mean that Dynamite’s Zorro license isn’t in perpetuity, but if that’s what you meant, it’s odd that you would have asserted that Zorro Properties would have to provide chain-of-title documents.

    >> So, no, DC wouldn’t have to produce every pay stub from 1940, as Kurt seems to suggest.>>

    I didn’t suggest any such thing. In fact, I said they wouldn’t even need to produce the original contract (which is not a pay stub). You’re the one who claimed that a simple publishing license would need to involve “copies of contracts related to anything involving the character.”

    >> My work-for-hire contract with Marvel for Nightstalkers isn’t the same as Don’s with Zorro Productions. I and an artist created Bloodstorm (based on Greg Wright’s initial ideas) and did not negotiate any financial participation in that character.>>

    You probably could, even at this late date — a few years back, Marvel asked me for a list of everything I’d co-created for them, and we did retroactive deals on it. But unless it’s likely that Bloodstorm could return and be licensed for an action figure or something, or get his own series, it may not be worth the time.

    >> I could go into other points but one thing I don’t understand: Why is a big-shot, brand-name comics writer taking so much time and effort to rag on old Don McGregor, whose career has never skyrocketed and is justifiably anxious about making a living? >>

    Perhaps that’s because you’re misreading my posts as an attempt to rag on Don, rather than as me suggesting that just because people are waving around torches and Frankenstein rakes, that doesn’t mean there’s a monster in the woods.

    >> So maybe give the guy a break, Kurt. He’s just trying to make a living, and worried about what a publisher’s actions might mean.>>

    Like I said, asking Dynamite rather than going ballistic on Facebook would probably have been a better approach.

    You’re looking for a personal animus of some sort, and trying to make this about big ol’ me being mean to poor little Don, but like others who’ve spoken up in this thread, I’ve been more concerned with pointing out that Dynamite isn’t a villain here, and discussing the aspects of comics history and business that have cropped up around it — such as when someone insists the things you’ve insisted that just aren’t so. That’s not ragging on Don, that’s correcting you, so others reading this don’t actually go away under the impression that, say, Dark Horse licensing Conan from Conan Properties means they get to see all the past contracts proving CP’s ownership.

    I like Don fine, and have never had an unpleasant conversation with him. The same is true of Nick Barrucci, too, so when he gets pilloried online on an implication (an incorrect one, as it turned out) that he was out to screw creators, I think it’s worth someone pointing out that this isn’t the case.

    kdb

  80. Typo: Should be “semantics,” plural. (I’m not even going to touch the one or two run-on sentences. It’s late, and I’ve put in a long day of work.)

  81. >> Here’s another colloquialism for Kurt: Why not pick on somebody your own size? >>

    Because I’m not in a fight. I’m in a conversation, and there’s no rule that says that I can’t correct the egregious misinformation you and others are presenting because my career is doing okay.

    >> Wait! Here’s another colloquialism! Don’t kick a guy when he’s down.>>

    That’s a nice colloquialism. It’s a bit sad that you think it should only apply to Don, and not to Nick Barrucci, who’s been taking a lot of undeserved kicking the last few days.

    You clearly want to make this an emotional issue, but strangely, I’ve been arguing that it’s been made pointlessly emotional already, and the facts on the ground don’t justify this kind of shitstorm. I’ll stand by that — particularly now that the end result, once the principals have communicated, is that there was nothing to be upset about in the first place, and Don’s credits and financial interest are secure.

    kdb

  82. I’m tired of having semantic arguments. “declarations and indemnifications” which provide what? Proof of title.

    You said “their original contracts with Kane and Marston.” In an effort at what seemed like colloquial shorthand, I said “1940s pay stubs.” Fine. You got me. I’ll rephrase: “So, no, DC wouldn’t have to produce its original contract with Marston.”

    And you seem to suggest that a prominent, successful company like Dynamite Entertainment couldn’t well defend itself on its own, but needed you to defend it against a nearly 70-year-old struggling writer concerned about his livelihood? Glad Moore, Waid, Bendis et al. didn’t feel the need to jump in and protect Dynamite from Don the Great and Powerful. If Dynamite didn’t NEED you to come in, then you did it because you WANTED to … you wanted to bring your big-name writer voice to point out how terrible Don is being. That’s just bullying. Dynamite and Nick could have defended themselves without you.

  83. >> I’m tired of having semantic arguments. “declarations and indemnifications” which provide what? Proof of title.>>

    No. You’re tiringly declaring any argument you don’t like to be semantic, but declarations and indemnifications aren’t chain-of-title documents, and don’t constitute proof of title.

    I could explain why, but you don’t like semantics, and you don’t want to hear it. The bottom line is, all this dancing about semantics aside, what you said was that ZP would have to provide copies of all the contracts to Dynamite. And they don’t. So your statement was wrong.

    What you claimed is untrue. That is not a semantic argument, it is a factual one.

    >> I’ll rephrase: “So, no, DC wouldn’t have to produce its original contract with Marston.”>>

    That’s correct, and it wasn’t me who said that signing publishing licenses required showing copies of all the old contracts. You were wrong when you said that, and you’re now admitting that this kind of licensing agreement doesn’t require copies of the earlier contracts.

    [These days, if DC wanted to _sell_ Wonder Woman to someone, they'd need to supply a copy of the 1990s agreement with the Marston Estate, to be sure, and possibly the original 1940s agreement is it's referred to in the 1990s agreement. But not to license Wonder Woman picture books or Underoos.]

    >> And you seem to suggest that a prominent, successful company like Dynamite Entertainment couldn’t well defend itself on its own, but needed you to defend it against a nearly 70-year-old struggling writer concerned about his livelihood? >>

    Oh, look, semantic quibbling.

    No, I didn’t suggest any such thing. Any more than you were suggesting that Don was utterly helpless without you coming to his defense by misinforming people about how licensing works and what professional standards are. If nobody should take part in this conversation unless it’s strictly needed, then none of this commentary thread would be here at all.

    It’s also odd that you’re making an attempt to recast me correcting your misinformation as me bullying poor Don, perhaps because you think it’ll bury the idea that I keep correcting your misinformation.

    Or are you now going to complain that big successful me is beating up poor little you, by not letting your misinformation stand? Surely in the end, what matters isn’t who you can whip up the most sympathy for, but what the actual facts are. And the facts, whether they’re offered by me, Nat or Ed (himself a bigger brand name than me these days), are that your descriptions of what has to accompany a licensing contract, or what professional standards are, were simply incorrect.

    You don’t like me pointing this out, but doing so is not a semantic disagreement and it’s not bullying Don. It’s disagreeing wit you.

    kdb

  84. Frank,

    See, here’s a problem with me defending myself or the people I work with. My first e-mail response which Heidi and Rich were kind enough to run, and I mean this sincerely, was a mix of frustration and giving Don a means to contact me. I gave my e-mail address in public so Don could get in touch with me. I wasn’t sure that I had his contact information and I was away on business – two business trips back to back. Again, not a woah is me, but it’s not easy to respond when very few people want to allow it, and those that try and keep it even keeled get piled on almost as bad as I was. I was frustrated on the accusations that happened. And some of my e-mail response was twisted. And a bunch of people were mean spirited. There’s no mileage in not given Don credit. The books would sell better giving Don credit, we and Zorro Properties and Don would have made more money. Now, bad publicity, means sales will go down, and all of us, including Don, will now make less money. And now Kurt gets sh!t on because he had a good experience and defended us? And I greatly appreciate it. The sad part is, many people jumped on this quickly from “the story breaking”. And the posts all read our mind. I apologized to Don and Don apologized to me. And we’re going to talk this week. And Zorro properties made it clear from the get go that Don will get not only credit in the book but his share of the money. They factored it into our licensing fee. This isn’t saying how great Zorro Properties or Dynamite is, but to point out that it was all addressed. The missing credit in the announcement was a mistake. And guess what, it doesn’t cost anyone money to add Don’s credit which is due. And that’s just mentioning something that’s pragmatic. We made a mistake, and were basically lynched for it. And anyone that tried to defend, were also piled on. Where’s the fairness there? Why isn’t it looked at from both sides? Where’s there any balance?

  85. As another relevant example using the commenters as examples: I distinctly recall tweets of major surprise from Mr. Brubaker when the title of the next Captain America movie was announced. I suspect Marvel didn’t give him a heads-up about it until the announcement.

  86. “The truth is that there was no sign that Dynamite or the Zorro folks were going to swindle McGregor out of money.”

    You missed the point Nat. It wasn’t about Don getting paid. It was about Don not having known about it and not being mentioned in the promos. And though we all agree no one had a legal obligation to do that, it still didn’t make sense to Don. Frankly not only myself and a lot of people agree with him, but Nick Barrucci himself also agrees with him and has now said so. Everyone involved has come to a good resolution about it. Except it seems like this fine group that wants to grind it a little further. No problem. It’ll all make more sense in the morning.

  87. Here’s what I posted on Don’s facebook page earlier today. Posting here because I don’t know that everyone would have seen it.

    Nick Barrucci Don – first and foremost, I do apologize for both not stating in the press release your creating Lady Rawhide and also that my comment was a bit of venting and was rushed. It was not intended as such and I apologize. I got defensive as you had mentioned that you were asking if Zorro Properties and Dynamite was screwing you out of royalties, and was more defensive about the accusation about Zorro Properties than about me personally. And I didn’t want to follow up till I was home and could give you a ring. I called a number a few times in the 718 area code, but it had a machine answer and not your voice, so wasn’t sure to leave a message, but did so a few minutes ago. I also want to let you know that the comics will have your creator credit in there. Now, to address one point from Michael Netzer, Michael has definitely twisted my words, and at one point in his open letter, out and out lied, which I’m sure will create an internet war. First, he’s imposing the bullying tactics that he claims that publishers have. He’s going online twisting words, and making assumptions, and telling anyone who is looking at this that they are wrong. It’s a lynch mob mentality. No judge, no jury, no evidence, let’s just hang the guy. And then he lies. And Don – you’re not wrong in asking this. But you asked if Dynamite and Zorro properties were going to screw you out of royalties. And then Michael writes that you never asked that. Here are the quotes: Michael Netzer’s open letter <> And here is what you wrote in one of your first statements May 29
    From CARL BOOTH:
    Damn, glad to see Lady Rawhide is back, but no mention of the creator, Don McGregor!!!
    From DON McGREGOR:
    First I’m reading about it. I created Lady Rawhide, and wrote every Topps comic featuring her. Zorro Productions has a contract with me that I get a percentage of anything done with characters I created. Are Zorro Productions and Dynamite now screwing creators?
    From DEMENTIA GRIMM:
    I first read about it via Panda Valentine about May 20th, so it wasn’t long ago. Don, no one consulted with you on this? Ho boy … dislike. ;/>> And now I’m sure that Michael will twist my words again, and if anyone agrees that I reacted to that comment, that they are not looking more into this. I don’t get Michael. I think it has to do with when a friend of Michael’s contacted me to see if I can give Michael work because he was desperate at the time, and we gave him work, that it wasn’t enough for him. We created an annual, we asked a writer to write an annual, so Michael could have work. If I slighted him at the time, it was unintentional. And now he’s taking it out here. He’s made this his agenda. He didn’t even give someone the chance to follow up with you. He almost pushed it to where it was better to leave this be than to apologize, but I am apologizing. I do have a very big problem with Michael’s being fine if a creator can make a mistake but a publisher cannot. It’s the kind of mentality that can push publishers to be more defensive, and that doesn’t help anyone. It’s hypocritical. That’s my opinion on this. Michael has an agenda, and he out and out lied. I’m sorry to say this Michael, but you did. Or, if it’s a mistake, and he didn’t mean to lie, which he may state, it’s ok for him to make a mistake and have lynched a publisher, and then say, “shit, we lynched him by accident. My bad.”. I was wrong in my one statement about being professional. It was a reaction you had, and I gave this a lot of thought the last few days, and believe that if you had been told this either over the phone or via e-mail, that you probably would have phoned me or e-mailed me. It was public because some fans saw the announcement and brought it to your attention, and that’s where you responded. And you probably didn’t know that the book had not come out. Again, I apologize for my reaction. It was rushed. And I had mentioned that I was in the city running around in meetings as a way of expressing that I couldn’t address properly, and couldn’t find your information, and gave you my e-mail address so that you could drop me a line. I gave my e-mail address, publicly, so that you could contact me. Only today did I think about writing on facebook. I just got back from two trade shows. And this is not to say “ooohhh look at me, I’m so busy and important”, but more to the fact of I couldn’t address this properly before now, and now that I can I am. I can’t make 100% of the people I work with happy, but I try my best. We all try our best. I hope you accept my apology and also understand that it was not a slight. And Mark Ellis has his own agenda, and I will leave it at that. And I will say that the bullying tactics taken on by Michael Netzer are as bad as what he claims companies do. He’s fine with accepting a creators word on things and not a person who works for a company. Again, I can only imagine what his agenda could be. Now I’ve said a lot here, and Michael and some others will twist my words to “hang me again”. Or that I’m writing “oh, whoa is me”. I’m not. But at the same time, should I be lynched by people saying stuff based on what they want to say or force their opinion on everyone and be treated as such? I hope that’s not the case. Michael and others are doing the same, if not worse, bullying than they accused me or any other publisher of. In my opinion, it’s bs. I’m being very defensive here, and see this as the only way to respond. It was piling on without giving someone a chance to respond. The bullying in my opinion – has gone on too far. Michael has even accused creators who tried and keep balance on this topic as trying to keep in good graces with publishers, to bully them as well. We work with over 100 creators at any given time. I strongly believe they work with us because they wish to work with us. And we will not make 100% of the creators we work with happy. It’s impossible. Will we try to, yes, of course. Will we succeed, no. We have to make books work that will sell as little as 8,000 copies. We create a budget based on that. There are too many publishers that went out of business owing creators money. I don’t want to be one of them. I’m personally being overly emotional about this. I’m being heavy handed with Michael because I don’t feel he was being fair or even slightly balanced in what he wrote and I freely admit that. And there is a strong chance that all of my words will be twisted, and there are a LOT of words that I wrote. I will not respond again publicly on this. There are too many posters who know better than anyone else. Too many assumptions made that have to be right because they say so. It’s an unfair assumption that people working at companies know to call a creator that a characters is being written or drawn by another creator can be done on every project when a company can be working with so many creators and so many projects (oh, woah is me, and that is a flip woah is me). It’s really not a fair criticism. Does a creator who has a creator owned book at a publisher acknowledge the original publisher when it moves to another publisher? Using this ONLY as an example, but does Don need to have it stated that Sabre was originally published by Eclipse Comics when he publishes new stories? Where’s the balance? Where is that fair to have one set of standards to publishers and a different one to creators? We’re human too. Maybe not in everyone’s eyes. To some, we’re heartless animals. There are so many flaws in what some have posted that it would take days to respond to each one. I can’t do it. It’s draining (I know that mentioning this will be used against me as a “whoa is me” statement. I want to thank everyone who tried to keep a balanced perspective on this. Our industry is a small family in the world of entertainment. And the principals to publishers and creators and the standards should be equal. Don – you have my heartfelt apologizes. I spoke with John too because I wanted to ask his thoughts, and he did not mean any slight in missing this either. Your credit will be in the comic, and if you would like to write more Lady Rawhide, let’s talk, and if it can work for both of us, let’s do it. If not, I fully understand. One additional time. I gave my e-mail address so that Don could contact me as I wasn’t sure if I had contact for him and I was working and wanted him to be able to contact me. The lynch mob made everything worse in my opinion, but I do apologize to Don.

  88. And here’s Don’s response:

    Don McGregor Nick,

    Thank you for your letter.

    The Post on Facebook was a dismayed

    reaction to learning of this through

    Facebook.

    I knew you had not contacted me on

    Zorro: Matanzas!

    I am far from any legal expert,

    and I admit that both Marsha and I

    had already had a ragged time

    No one of our generation would not

    find it scary.

    That written, I think my immediate response

    was predicated by the fact that I drove

    to San Francisco with my son, Rob, to

    discuss that very thing about creating

    characters for the new Zorro series. I was

    already tired of characters I’d created, and

    concepts I’d worked on being used and the

    creator saw nothing. I’d done an ad visually

    attacking the Work For Hire contracts in the

    early 80s.

    Now, I know little about legalities, and I still

    have the contract, of course, but I haven’t looked

    at it, but I know Lady Rawhide, Moonstalker,

    Machete, et al, were in that contract specifically.

    So, I’m sure that I wrote about the contract,

    because this time I thought I was covered.

    I thought my family was protected.

    Everything I was asked for, and more, I did,

    because personally I liked John and I trusted him.

    I will call you. If I can’t get it today, I have my

    own serious doctor’s appointment tomorrow,

    one, actually, I’d like to cancel. I rather talk with

    you then talk with the doctor. But I guess I have to do it.

    I do not believe Michael Netzer would ever purposefully

    lie.

    I thank you again for writing, Nick.

  89. and my additional response:

    Nick Barrucci Don – you have no reason to apologize. Once I had a chance to think it through I realized that you were just reacting. You are a stand up guy. And I will say this for Zorro properties, John wanted, and wants to, ensure that every appearance of Lady Rawhide you get credit and your participation for the money. He has been clear on that. I am giving you my word that he has been clear. I’m sorry about my response, and when I saw so many posts that had lynch mobs attacking, knew that I had to wait till I got home and could think about it more. I wrote a lot. And I do know that most of the people – Michael included – were defending you. But if we’re all going to fight for what’s right, it really has to go both ways. No worries on the doctor, I have doctor’s appointments on Tuesday, so anytime later this week is fine. Take care of yourself and Marsha first. I’m here and we’ll talk. Best! Nick
    6 hours ago · Like · 1..
    Nick Barrucci Michael – it happens. I’m still frustrated, and honestly, felt you attacked not only me too harshly, but also everyone who tried to keep it even keeled. It was unfair. But, it’s happened and there’s nothing that can be done except home that in the future everyone can keep a cool head and wait till there’s been conversation before piling on. Again, no need to apologize. It is what it is at this point. Best! Nick

  90. My message – publishers are not inherently evil and are not out to screw anyone. We’re here to publish great comics – at least the best we can – pay our employees, writers and artists, colorists and letterers, printers, distributors, advertising bills and make some money in addition. Very few are making millions of dollars, and if they are, they’ve had to have earned it.

    There was a lot of supposition that Don was going to be screwed, and financially was the first thing Don responded to. I gave my e-mail address out to the world so that Don had a way of contacting me. I was traveling at two trade shows, and wasn’t sure I had his contact information. Once Don and I connected, it seems we worked things out. I apologized to him, and he apologized to me, which was not necessary, but I believe that he believes my apology to be sincere. This whole thing was blown out of proportion, and some by people who just don’t like our books and want to see us go away. It is what it is, and there’s very little that can be done, but it would have been nice to give me a chance to explain that Zorro Properties had every intent of paying Don and giving him credit. They insisted. They factored in Don’s participation in the contract. There was no reason to not mention Don. It was a mistake. One that Don has forgiven me on, but many will be happy to bring up when they want to.

  91. And I want to mention that Mike Mayhew was also credited as co-creator of Lady Rawhide as well as Machette and Moonstalker. Both will get credit they deserve. I wanted to ensure that everyone knew this as well.

  92. It is a shame that everyone who was defending Don and who brought the lynch mob didn’t find it worth while to mention Mike Mayhew – also a creator.

  93. And here’s what I had to deal with today. Some hypocrisy here:
    Mark Ellis Sharing this.

    10 hours ago · Like · 1..
    Mark Ellis says:

    Nick the Dick. Could his response be anymore dismissive, sneering and contemptous? And publishers why so many creators try to figure out ways to get their work to their fans by circumventing them entirely

  94. Here’s my follow up to Mark when I see this hypocritical act where Mark didn’t give credit to Mike Gustavitch for creating Justice Machine for the Justice Machine 30th Anniversary. That’s pretty low. Pretty low to not place it, pretty low to not place it on the 30th anniversary and really low for his response in that he’s had the characters longer than Mike did, basically saying it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t list Mike’s name. If I was Mark, I would comment on his honor and what he’s done to date. Fortunately I won’t do that.

  95. and then I posted this:

    Nick Barrucci I do wish I could add my posts to Mark Ellis post on us being “yech”. From Mark Ellis and I can’t copy and post on his thread <> And from the man who lambasts me for not giving Don credit to not give Mike credit in the solicits for the Justice Machine 30th Anniversary HC. The 30th ANNIVERSARY book! – https://www.scifigenre.com/itemDetail.aspx?nItemID=114994&sid=G
    Sci-Fi Genre: Justice Machine HC, Moonstone – $31.99
    http://www.scifigenre.com

    DESCRIPTION:

    Written by Mark Ellis; Illustrated by David Enebral & Mar Degano
    100 pages; hard cover; full color

    The Justice Machine Is Back! The legendary super-team returns on the 30th anniversary of their 1981 debut! The Justice Machine fought to destroy tyranny on two worlds – but nearly twenty years ago they vanished, never to be seen again. Until now! The Machine’s explosive return plunges them into a nightmarish landscape of two realities warring for dominion! The team races to thwart a dark destiny awaiting all humanity if they fail to stop an unspeakable evil from gaining a foothold to the future!
    Product Code: JUN121199

    I don’t know if it’s Mark’s standard business practice to be a hypocrite, but this definitely sheds some light on how he works. Justice Machine’s 30th Anniversary – where’s Mike Gustavitch’s name?

  96. One more as Mark’s words cut deep:

    Nick Barrucci Mark – I think to a degree and a large one – your posts are far worse than Michael’s. There’s no delusion of being Stan Lee. There’s the reality of making sure all creators who work with us can be paid. You’re making assumptions based on probably two conversations, if that, and I’m sure you’ll twist my words and come up with something else, but you’re happy to throw stones without knowing the full story, not caring to know, and just going for it and making statements that only you could be right. You want to be the guy who once a guy has been caught to be lynched by the mob that you want to be the guy who looks in his eyes and wants to pull the lever to watch him drop. It’s not nice. Making things work – it’s a two way street. And thanks for calling me a dick. I’ve never heard that before. It rhymes.

  97. As all can see, I found the pile on to be unfair and not given a fair chance to respond properly, and the words that I did give were twisted. The fact that I gave Don my e-mail address so that he can contact me, makes me evil. And any creator or fan who defended the situation, whether it was defending me or keeping the witch hunt/lynch mob more even keeled, were ridiculed. I understand why Don said what he did. I understand why Michael reacted, and probably over-reacted, the way he did. But people like Mark Ellis were just plain mean. And that I don’t understand.

  98. The Beat says:

    Well, I also was away at BEA and did’t have time to police this, but it seems that this has all been hashed out in public for our own entertainment — perhaps an email or phone call here or there would have made some people seem more or less cantankerous. I had every faith that Nick would sort this out.

    So now the curtain falls.